17 Apr 2015

Shearing community mourns woolhandler

2:54 pm on 17 April 2015

The shearing community is mourning the loss of New Zealand woolhandling legend, Joanne Kumeroa, who has died after a three year battle with cancer.

Joanne Kumeroa

Joanne Kumeroa Photo: Shearing Sports NZ

The 45-year old had been living in Australia but returned home to Whanganui just before Christmas, and died yesterday.

Ms Kumeroa was regarded in shearing circles as a New Zealand icon, winning more World, Golden Shears and national wool-handling titles than any other competitor in her 24 year career.

Friends said she used her battle with cancer to raise women's awareness of the disease.

A former woolhandling champ and friend Mavis Mullins said Joanne grew up in her father's shearing contracting business, and when she began competing, the standards were raised to a new level.

"Joanne was always very focused, very competitive and nothing was ever left to chance with Jo and she lived her whole life like that.

"Once she started to, I guess, maybe she felt she'd achieved a lot of her targets in wool handling, she took up a hand piece, she was a very accomplished shearer and had some very creditable tallies to her name, but in the later years Joanne became a lot more active in the mentoring training role."

Ms Mullins said in that role she passed on her knowledge and shared her wisdom with up and coming talent.

"The number of young ones that Joanne mentored through, you know they're all saying thank you mum, they're referring to her in those terms and in the shearing industry there's a lot of that where young ones came through and they were almost brought up and mentored by the Joannes of this world.

"She may have three biological children but she has a whole raft of what we call whāngai children out there who she certainly spread and sprinkled and shared her magic with.

"Very, very sad, but in another way I've been quite close to Jo over this last little while, and for me I'm pleased, she ran a tough competition again, she fought this to the end. It's been a long hard journey for Joanne and I'm just so pleased that she's now restful."

Ms Mullins said the tangi would be held at the Parikino Marae, based along the Whanganui River, on Monday.