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Stackyard News Feb 04

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Tractor on top after revolutionary century

Tractors have been busy on New Zealand farms for the past 100 years. Fritha Tagg looks back on a century of hard work.

It is nearly 100 years since the first farm tractor was imported into New Zealand –- in May, 1904. But it was decades before farmers finally retired their horses, and accepted that the mechanical machines were here to stay.

Events have been planned around the country to celebrate 100 years of the tractor.

Tractor historian Richard Robinson says farming has played a big part in building New Zealand into what it is today, and farmers would never have been able to make such a contribution without the tractor.

" It is not hard to realise that farm production would have been considerably less if farmers still relied on the power of horses or steam engines to work their farms."

An Ivel agricultural motor at work on a South Canterbury farm. [1913] photo courtesy
An Ivel agricultural motor at work on a South Canterbury farm. [1913] photo courtesy
Christchurch City Libraries

With no tractor manufacturing industry in the country, the machines were imported from around the world. Starting with the 12hp American Kinnard Haines Flour City model and the British Ivel machines, others have come from Italy, Germany, France, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Japan, Korea, China and Australia.

Mr Robinson says it is fitting that activities to mark the centennial have been organised throughout the country.

Members of vintage machinery clubs are staging special events throughout the year, where tractors will be on display.

Many of the tractors have outlived their useful lives on farms, but have been carefully restored by enthusiasts.

Several agricultural and pastoral associations have also decided to focus on the tractor as part of their activities this year.

New Zealand Post has recognised the importance of the farm tractor centennial, and in April will issue a special series of stamps featuring farm machinery.

To help celebrate the contribution tractors have made to New Zealand's farming history Waikato Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club is holding a Pioneer Tractor and Machinery Rally at the Wiseman property, Victoria Rd, Cambridge, on February 28-29.

The theme of the rally will be to exhibit the rare and oldest examples of pre-1939 tractors and associated machinery.

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