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Town and shearing world prepares to farewell Koro Mullins

Shearing identity Koro Mullins will have a town hall send-off when his tangi ends in the Southern Hawke’s Bay town of Dannevirke on Friday.

The move from Makirikiri Marae, just south of Dannevirke, was confirmed today (Wednesday) by daughter Aria Mullins, who now runs family shearing contracting business Paewai Mullins, one of Dannevirke’s major employers.

Born Koropiko Tumatahi Mullins of Te Arawa stock in Rotorua on August 13, 1954, Mr Mullins died suddenly on Monday, aged 65, prompting hundreds of social media tributes from around the World which contributed to the realisation bigger facilities would be needed for the final stages of the funeral.

At home with family on Tuesday and Wednesday nights he will be carried onto the marae about 9am on Thursday, spending one night with family friends under the eye of the ancestors before being taken to the town hall on Friday morning.

Aria Mullins said her dad reckoned – in a sign of the nature of his popular shearing competition commentaries – that he didn’t have any friends.

But the funeral director convinced the whanau “it might be a different story” and the decision was made to go to the Town Hall, of which Mr Mullins was once nominally an administrator, serving nine years as an elected member of the Tararua District Council which owns the facility and has its headquarters in the town.

The tragedy led to a decision by son Punga Mullins to not seek a place on the Council at the upcoming Local Elections, although his name will be on more than 6000 North Tararua Ward voting papers being sent out over the next few days.

“Due to heartbreakng circumstances I will be withdrawing my candidacy from this year’s local government elections,” he said in a facebook post. “Dad is my biggest support, mentor who guided, inspired and challenged me every day to be the best I can be.”

“Who knows what the future may hold,” he wrote, “but I am truly sorry I won’t be able to stand this time around.”

Koro Mullins, husband of leading businesswoman Mavis Mullins (nee Paewai), whom he met while working as a presser for her father and brothers, was 6th the 1993 Golden Shears Open shearing championship in Masterton, the 5th of 16 won by shearing legend David Fagan.

In the same year his wife won the second of her two Golden Shears Open woolhandling titles, the couple being followed into competition triumph by Aria, a New Zealand Shears Senior woolhandling champion, Punga, the runner-up in Shearing Sports New Zealand’s 2004-2005 national Junior shearing rankings, and second son Tuma, a winner of both the Senior shearing and woolhandling titles at the New Zealand championships.

Second daughter Korina chose an academic path and works in the health sector.

The family has been best-known for the shearing operation which at peak employs over 100 staff, with quarters off Weber Rd, just east of Dannevirke. The operation was noted for its promotion and tuition of youngsters entering the industry and the wellbeing of hundreds from the UK and other European countries while working in New Zealand, a long way from home at such times as Christmas.

Over the last two decades or more, Mr Mullins became well-known as a shearing competitions commentator with a unique and sometimes irreverent style which revved the crowd to fever-pitch, even those who’d never seen shearing and hadn’t heard of those they were cheering for.

To media less familiar with shearing and the woolsheds, the commentary was as much a part of the competition as the shearing and woolhandling, with his own blend of humour, excitement for the faithful and education for the less-initiated.

He was part of a sizeable commentating and presentations team at the Golden Shears, including son Tuma, and in recent years has presented, commentated and interviewed on the Golden Shears Tv live-streaming around the World.

He was one of the “voices of shearing,” in the words of Welsh commentator Huw Condron, who had first met the man while shearing in New Zealand in 2002-2003. It was over the next decade or so that they would be commentating together at the World Championships, in both the UK and New Zealand.

Condron said Koro Mullins became a mentor, as they shared a particular interest in in getting to know the competitors and ensuring that for each of them pronunciation of names both Maori and Welsh were broadcast with accuracy and respect.

Condron said he and the shearing fraternity throughout the UK were stunned to wake to the news of the passing of someone who was highly regarded, not only for the commentating but as an employer and friend of hundreds of British staff the shearing business had employed over the years.

The chairman of Shearing Sports New Zealand, the now Sir David Fagan, said the global World of shearing was “rocked” by news of the death. He said Koro Mullins’ involvement and commitment was the fullest in every way and all within the industry and sport were united in sharing their condolences with the whanau. “It’s a big loss,” he said.

Son of the late Paul Mullins and Hinetau Hemara, he is survived by his wife, sons Punga and Tuma, daughters Korina and Aria, and 14 grandchildren.


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