Sheepdogs put to the test
More than 300 competitors and their dogs descend on Helensville for the Northland Centre Sheepdog Championships this weekend.
The event is being staged there for the first time in more than 20 years.
Helensville Sheepdog Trial Club members Duncan and Jinny McNab and patron Mick McLiver have been working with the committee on entries from as far as Cape Reinga and Hastings.
To ensure impartiality three judges will be coming from Poverty Bay to the McKenzie property on Inland Rd.
Dogs and their owners compete in four events - Class 1, long head; Class 2, short head and yard; Class 3, zigzag huntaway and Class 4, straight huntaway.
Huntaways and border collies are popular dog trial breeds but, as Mr McLiver says: "There are no rules as to the breed of dog used as long as they're working dogs and can do the job."
Mr McLiver, a sheep and dairy farmer in Rodney since 1966, has been competing in dog trials since 1986. He was also Helensville Sheepdog Trial Club president for a time.
Over the years he has seen many changes to the sport, notably in the reduced number of competitors now that changing land use has meant there are fewer sheep and shepherds in the area.
For those who do compete the event is eagerly anticipated and hard fought.
While trophies and cash are on the line, for many the goal is to acquire the points that provide eligibility to compete in the North Island and New Zealand championships. Then there's the social aspect.
"Some people bring their families, spectators are welcome - there's no gate fee - and there's a great feeling of comradeship," Mr McLiver says.
"I've always liked dogs and I'm really looking forward to giving four of mine a good run."