Rural News Feb 2013



Raising shearing from its ‘dim, dark void’

MANY QUALITY programmes are developed by people “who drive a desk”, says ShearNZ business manager Peter Taylor – but ShearNZ is being developed by people who know shearing.

Launched last April by the Shearing Contractors Association, which jointly funds it with Beef + Lamb NZ, ShearNZ is an interesting concept where the harvester of a product is the initiator of a quality programme for its own businesses, Taylor says.

“It has effects that reach back to the farmer clients with quality of service, and to the wool market in its assurance that people and animals are looked after; we take care of environmental issues and so on.”

So far ShearNZ has 10 large contracting members whose staff shear about 11% of New Zealand’s sheep. “We want more contactors to join but we won’t be going out doing the hard sell,” says Taylor

Standards have been developed by people that “understand the industry intimately”. “We think there’s a huge advantage in developing a programme that can work at grassroots level rather than waiting for someone else to impose it on us. Sometimes these programmes are developed by people who drive a desk.”

Taylor, in Palmerston North, says ShearNZ aims this year is to develop more systems and tools for shearing businesses to run more easily without disrupting day-to-day work. All businesses now face huge compliance requirements.

“It’s built for the industry by the industry rather than being imposed on us by somebody who doesn’t understand the industry.”  Its website offers ideas on human resources, staff management and health and safety.

Taylor was a shearer for 20 years including a contractor for 10-12 years, and he taught shearing for the Wool Board for 15 years. He coordinates the national health and safety committee. “I’ve got shearing running through my veins… it’s hard to not love it even though it’s a challenging industry.”

Shearing Contractors Association president Barry Pullin, from Christchurch, says to outsiders the shearing industry can be a “dim, dark void” with a rough, tough reputation.

“As contractors we wanted to say, ‘we are proud of the job we do and we do a good job, so let’s put some measures around it, let’s put our heads up and say this is what we do and how we do it … and we can add to the story of wool’,” says Pullin.

“Wool is a tactile product; it touches people, people wear it, they stand on it, so it’s a people product. Rather than say it’s processed in a factory by a machine we should promote ‘this is a product for people and it involves people in the production of it’.”

Pullin says for the shearing contractor ShearNZ provides a measure of their business for attaining and maintaining best practice. “Very few shearing businesses have a good structure,” he says. “So ShearNZ provides a template for good structure,  it develops and implements a business plan and makes sure the business is meeting best practice in the way it employs people, looks after them and does the job of shearing.”

For shearers themselves, working for a ShearNZ business means they are more likely to work in a good facility, get paid properly and work for a professional outfit.

Pullin says ShearNZ differs from the old Fernmark and other accreditation schemes such as Just Short or Integrity in that it is not the farmers’ clip that is accredited but the shearing business – “what happened to get the people in the shed to do the job and what they did there”.

They have “incredible support” from BLNZ and from Federated Farmers, ACC, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the wool trade.

Writen by PAM TIPA