Heavy fog added to the atmosphere of the 64th National Ploughing Championships, held recently at Chertsey, near Rakaia, in Mid Canterbury.
He was driving a 1949 David Brown Cropmaster – a tractor his father had bought second hand in 1951, using it to develop the family farm at Orini. Houghton has since restored it.
He used it to pull a Reid and Gray 1954 plough that he had acquired in 2004 and had also fully restored.
Houghton has had a life-long passion for motors and machinery, qualifying as a diesel mechanic after his schooling. When Paul and wife Deborah began sharemilking in 1977 the tractor was derelict, so he partially restored it for use until they could afford a newer machine.
They dairy farmed for 25 years, meanwhile starting a sideline mechanical business, for nine years servicing and repairing forklifts, trucks and Caterpillar loaders for the nearby New Zealand Timber Processors Mill, and doing outside work.
Following his father’s death Houghton fully restored the tractor as a memorial to him. “This gave me a lot of satisfaction and pleasure because I grew up on it.”
He had first ploughed with it at age 10 when his father allowed him to plough ground for a summer crop. “Ploughing always coincided with the second week of the August school holidays.”
He and Deborah sold the farm ten years ago and moved to a lifestyle block on Gordonton Road near Hamilton. Now he is busier than ever trucking silage, gravel and fertiliser for local farmers, and helping his son who runs a shelter belt trimming business. He also helped prepare the ground and roading for the nearby Zealong Tea Estate, New Zealand’s only such business.
A relative discovered Houghton’s Reid and Gray plough in a neighbour’s garden, there 20 years as an ornament and a nuisance to mow around. “It was in bad shape” but restoration and minor tweaking has seen it work well ever since.
When he joined the Waikato Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club he had his first introduction to competitive ploughing at their annual ploughing meet.
He has won this contest eight years in a row.
He has competed at five New Zealand Ploughing Association finals, gaining a highest placing of third until this year. This was the first time a hydraulic plough had won the vintage section; all previous winners used trailed ploughs.
His combined points over the two days ploughing gave him a winning margin of 15 points.
“The first day was not easy but after viewing the other competitors’ plots I realised we all had had a trying day. I was much happier with my effort on the Sunday.”
He won the Jordan Family Challenge Trophy for his efforts. This was donated by Ian (Chiefy) Jordan, the patron of the New Zealand Ploughing Association.