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Hilux Rural Games - The sports that built our nation


Excitement is starting to build for the 2019 Hilux New Zealand Rural Games in Palmerston North next March. The event, which drew more than 30,000 participants this year, celebrates rural athletes and rural life in New Zealand.

The games are free and feature crowd pleasers such as speed shearing, speed tree climbing, wood chopping and sheepdog trials, as well as speed milking, wine barrel rolling and olive pit spitting.

Events range from trans-tasman and international championships to open entry and special have a go programmes for children throughout the weekend.

Toyota New Zealand General Manager Marketing Andrew Davis says that 2019 will be the fifth annual games that Toyota has supported.

“The games are all about celebrating rural sports that helped build our nation, and bringing country and city kids together to help close the rural-urban divide.”

Games founder Steve Hollander says an exciting new addition to the programme for 2019 is Kidz Kartz, an initiative to teach children the basics of trotting, using miniature horses. As well as learning about the mechanics of harness racing, children learn to care for the animals involved as while developing teamwork and sportsmanship.

“Every year this event goes from strength to strength. We’re now the largest event between Mystery Creek and Wellington,” says Steve.

The games will kick off with the running of the wools on Friday 8 March. In 2019 this event will move to the Square in the centre of Palmerston North, bringing the spectacle of sheep to the city.

The sheep run will be followed by a series of community races and events such the man and mutt race and the wool fadge competition.

That evening New Zealand’s top rural athletes and rural sports administrators will gather for the prestigious Norwood New Zealand Rural Sports Awards. The 2018 awards featured competitive shearers, fencers, tree climbers, wood choppers, endurance riders and gumboot throwers.

Andrew says Toyota is proud to again support the Toyota lifetime legacy award.

“The 2018 award recipient, Paul van Beers, is a truly inspirational and high-achieving competitive fencer. Although he no longer competes, he is still heavily involved in driving competitive fencing in New Zealand and has since been appointed to the rural sports awards’ judging panel,” says Andrew.

“He will be a hard act to follow, so I’m excited to see who will be nominated this year.

“The awards night was made all the more special as the amazing team of Ray Davies, Simon van Velthooven, Guy Endean and Sean Regan from Emirates Team New Zealand were there to talk about their inspiring endeavours.”

You can find out more about the Hilux New Zealand Rural Games by visiting