Thursday, 05 May 2016 13:55

Straight and true

Written by  Peter Burke
Colin Millar (left) and Bob Mehrtens. Colin Millar (left) and Bob Mehrtens.

World Ploughing chairman Colin Millar, of Rotorua, says the winners of this year's NZ ploughing championships are in contention with the best in the world.

This year the NZ event was held in Manawatu and Millar says the local organisers and the owner of the land where the competition was held really stepped up to the mark. The site was beautiful, the land well prepared and the event was exceptionally well run.

"The soil conditions were amazing; the level of the grass and stubble were exceptional," Millar told Rural News. "We told the competitors they could remove as much straw as they like because there was no straw on the site."

Millar says ploughing, like many sports, is struggling to get new competitors, although this year there were young people among the prize winners.

As for the rest of the world, he says in the last few years NZ has been mid-ranked, with strong competition coming from Austria, England, Wales and Ireland. But he points out that NZers have won the world event three times.

Millar says ploughing is a hobby and a sport and the people involved are passionate about it. The competition is not about speed, but rather seedbed and weed control, and it's based on tradition, which means no technology.

"In NZ we do not allow any electronic devices. The world body will allow electronic devices to measure things, but not to adjust things. Here in NZ, we won't even let you use it for measuring," he explains.

"We have stuck with the old methods and from our point of view it's easy to control because if somebody has a GPS to measure something how can I prove he's not using it to adjust something? If we say 'no' we have no worries. Likewise, we say 'no cellphones' because someone could be using one to ring and ask their mate how to sort out a problem."

Millar says the event is very much about people and renewing old friendships.

This is also the view of Bob Mehrtens, of Timaru, who won the reversible class and the prize includes a trip to the 2017 world championships in Kenya. Mehrtens, who drives a truck for his day job, has been ploughing competitively for nearly 40 years. For him ploughing is a hobby.

"I just love the people and the opportunity to have a go. I have been ploughing all around the world a few times and in NZ and I have met so many great people. It's a challenge: every paddock is different, every year is different."

Mehrtens says when he was a kid he saw other people ploughing and thought he'd like to have a go and has done so ever since. He doesn't own a farm, but makes up for this by attending as many competitions as possible. He is looking forward to going to Kenya.

"A few people are bit iffy about it, but I think it will be great and I have heard a lot of good things about it, just as I've heard bad. I'll enjoy going and will do my best for NZ. This will be my ninth world final."

Mehrtens says one of his favourite places to plough is Ireland. He's ploughed there three times and the places and people were awesome and they were happy to lend him equipment. He says when they came to NZ he lent them his equipment.

"Ploughing is not just about tractors and ploughs; it's about people and we have great time," he says.

Ian Woolley from Blenheim is also off to Kenya by virtue of winning the conventional class. Later this year he'll also compete in the world championships in England. This was his 16th year at a NZ final.


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