Queen’s Birthday Honour for ploughman

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A Palmerston ploughman who has fostered his craft across the world is now a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Noel Sheat received the Queen’s Birthday Honour for his services to ploughing and the community.

Now aged 80, Mr Sheat was out working on his farm at Bushey, just north of Palmerston, when the Oamaru Mail phoned to congratulate him.

He said he still has no plans to retire, and has not been to town since his award was announced on Monday.

profile, Mr Sheat has received a lot of congratulatory phone calls, emails, and texts, including some from overseas.

His love of ploughing began when he was a member of the Palmerston Young Farmers Club. He joined at the age of 15 and appreciated its policy of taking a turn as treasurer, secretary, and chairman.

“That schooling stood by me over the years.”

His first ploughing event was a competition between the Palmerston and Macraes Young Farmers Clubs, in which Palmerston took the top three placings.

That club, the first in New Zealand, was now in recess but he hoped it would be resurrected.

Mr Sheat has been involved with the New Zealand Ploughing Association for more than half a century, holding a range of executive positions and now serving as patron.

He competed in 19 national ploughing championships, winning four times. He went on to represent New Zealand at the world championships in Germany, Zimbabwe, Canada, and Ireland, and was the organising chairman when the world championships were held in Methven in 2010.

Mr Sheat and his wife Thelma have hosted the New Zealand championships at their 400ha mixed stock and cropping farm three times – in 1981, 2001, and for the 60th anniversary in 2015.

That entailed planning crop rotations years in advance, so conditions were right on the allotted dates.

Mr Sheat was awarded the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand medal for excellence in agriculture in 2017.

He gave up competitive ploughing several years ago, but still ploughs his own paddocks and travels far and wide to attend matches.

This year’s championships, which have been cancelled due to Covid-19, were to have been held at Takapau in Central Hawkes Bay – a place Mr Sheat was keen to visit, as the last time it was host he was overseas competing.

Ploughers were now getting back on their tractors for qualifying events most weekends, he said.

Mr Sheat’s community service included being a member of the Lions Club of Palmerston for 40 years and of the Palmerston Masonic Lodge for 38 years, treasurer of the East Otago Vintage Machinery Club for 25 years, and helping to establish the Goodwood Water Scheme in 1960.

He hasn’t been to Lions or lodge meetings since the lockdown began, but both organisations had kept in touch.

Mr Sheat does not yet know where or when he would receive his honour from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.