Hilux New Zealand Rural Games to shift north in 2017

After two years in Queenstown the Hilux New Zealand Rural Games is relocating to Palmerston North next year the weekend before the start of New Zealand Agri Investment Week 2017.

The third annual Games – a free two-day event hosting national and trans-Tasman championships for traditional sports like wood chopping, speed shearing and speed fencing alongside fun participation contests like cherry stone spitting, gumboot throwing and cowpat tossing – will take place in The Square, Palmerston North on the weekend of 11-12 March 2017.

Steve & mayors in Palmerston North

Games founder Steve Hollander with local mayors Grant Smith and Margaret Kouvelis in Palmerston North

The Running of the Wools – hundreds of sheep herding through downtown streets – will take place in central Feilding on Friday 10 March in conjunction with ‘Feilding on a Friday’ activities, which include the massive weekly Saleyards Livestock Sales, and also the Feilding Farmers Market held in Manchester Square.

After an agreement with Palmerston North City Council and Manawatu District Council both the Games and Running of the Wools will remain in their new locations until at least 2018.

It is hoped that the Running of the Wools will also continue in Queenstown as a separate annual event featuring the iconic merino sheep of the Southern Lakes farming region.

The most recent Games in Queenstown earlier this month attracted around 6,000 people with an additional crowd of around 8,000 people packed into the CBD to watch the Running of the Wools. More than 200 competitors took part in 18 different events over the two days.

Games founder and trustee Steve Hollander said he was confident the new location would attract thousands more spectators thanks to growing awareness of the event nationally plus the support of local councils and tourism authorities.

“The Manawatu is a heartland rural area with an enormous catchment throughout the North Island known as ‘the middle of the middle million’. The Games will remain a free event and staging them right in the centre of Palmerston North provides a perfect platform for us to showcase traditional sports and get more locals and visitors along to have a go themselves,” he said.

“Queenstown was a stunning location but we want to keep growing the Games and bring this essential part of our national character to a huge new audience. We’ve already received outstanding support from Palmerston North City Council, Manawatu District Council and Destination Manawatu, so I couldn’t be more positive about the future of the event.”

Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith said: “The New Zealand Rural Games provides a perfect kick off to the 2017 New Zealand Agri Investment Week that culminates with Central Districts Field Days at the end of the week. I think holding the Games on the Saturday and Sunday right in the middle of The Square in Palmerston North will be great for the event and add to my Council’s push to add to the vibrancy of the CBD. The move lays down another bold marker that this region is at the heart of agriculture, and agribusiness, in New Zealand.”

Manawatu District Mayor Margaret Kouvelis said: “The Games celebrate what built our country – shovelling coal, shearing sheep, fencing, and wood chopping – good old fashioned values, and with a good dose of fun to boot such as egg throwing, wine barrel racing, gumboot throwing and caber tossing. The Running of the Wools through the centre of Feilding will attract families from far and wide. After all agriculture is at the core of our community – it’s a natural fit.”

New Zealand Rural Games trustee Sir Brian Lochore said he was very supportive of the Games heading north.

“While the Games have been very successful and well received in Queenstown, the shift to a more highly populated rural community is a good move. Having the Running of the Wools in Feilding will be great to coincide with the biggest sale complex in New Zealand,” said Sir Brian.

“I think the masterstroke is having the Games on The Square, right in the centre of Palmerston North. It’s a big student town so there would be no shortage of people coming to have a go. The support from local councils also shows that this shift is welcome and will be successful.”

About New Zealand Agri Investment Week:
The New Zealand Agri Investment Week, in association with ASB Bank, is a series of thought provoking national events created to foster talent, develop understanding and forge connections across the New Zealand agri value chain. The inaugural event was held from 14th-19th March 2016 hosting events such as Central Districts Field Days, NZ Future Farms Conference, NZ Agribusiness Investment Showcase, Perspective 2025 and the NZ Sheep Milk Conference. For further information click here.