Maree, right, was at the Waimai Ram Sale recently where she caught up with Elle Perriam from Allflex, who acknowledged the proceeds from the sale of a donated ram towards ‘Will to Live,’ encouraging more young people to speak up.
Working alongside growers in Waikato, north to the Auckland Harbour Bridge and throughout the Bay of Plenty where she is based, Maree Mather joined PGG Wrightson Wool in May 2015.
In the current challenging climate she says you have to be passionate about wool to remain positive.
“I have farms that have converted to trees, and some looking at options other than wool production. Shearing costs persuaded several farmers into full wool this season, when traditionally this is a second shear region. Fortunately, that has reduced the cost structure more than the returns.
“Now more than ever, growers need to present an excellent product, particularly ensuring their sheep are dry when shorn, and there is no raddle in the wool.
“However, only one per cent of the world apparel fibre market is wool: if that percentage were to increase only slightly we wouldn’t be able to produce enough wool in New Zealand to meet global demand,” she says.
Growing up on a Whangarei farm, Maree started her career with a Diploma in Wool and Wool Technology from Massey University. Experience as a wool handler and crossbred wool classer followed, then travelling the world working in England, Norway and Australia.
These days work entails a mix of auction, shed pricing and contracts.
“With such a huge area there is usually someone doing something with wool, whether it be shearing, wools in school, or understanding test results with clients.
“My most valuable role is being in the shed at shearing. Because shed hands are quite transient, I know someone will ask about preparation, and that is the value of on the job training: understanding why you do something,” she says.
Maree is easily recognisable: apart from the PGG Wrightson branding, her car usually has kayak roof racks on top.
“I am lucky to have the Rotorua lakes so handy and kayaking has taken me to some amazing places that most people can’t access.
“I sit in a car for most of the day, so try to make sure I don’t sit down much otherwise. I always have heaps of projects on the go, which at the moment includes ‘training’ to tramp the Abel Tasman,” she says.
It amazes her that the average kiwi home with synthetic carpet is similar to having 22,000 plastic bags on the floor, by weight.
“We need to make sure facts like that are more widely understood. As an industry, we need to work together to keep the integrity of New Zealand wool. It is at the top of the world market choices and we need to keep it there.
“I’m always on the lookout at cottage industries to find out what people are doing with wool. I bought some expensive felted soap the other day, made on Great Barrier Island: it smells so good,” says Maree.