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Central Southland young farmer powers away to win

Robert Kempthorne, representing Otago-Southland, won an electrifying televised 2003 Grand Final of the WRIGHTSON AGMARDT YOUNG FARMER CONTEST in Hastings, pressed closely by the only woman contestant, Louise Collingwood, representing Waikato-Bay of Plenty.

After a televised evening show dogged by power surges due to the severe storm, Kempthorne finished three days of competition on 285 points, with Collingwood on 273.

Third was Tasman representative Tim Cookson on 265, while fourth was local East Coast farmer Paul McGill, 234.

Collingwood led on points for much of the contest, after winning the technical session on the first day. She is a product development officer for Dexcel in Waikato and only the second female grand finalist in 35 years of the contest, and received very warm appreciation from the Hawke’s Bay Opera House audience.

Kempthorne also credited Collingwood with pushing him all the way, saying afterwards that she had “done herself proud in a difficult and demanding contest.”

As a returning grand finalist from last year in Timaru, Kempthorne was a favourite for honours this year and the first prize of $85,000 in prizes.

He gave up full time farming work during the past six months to concentrate on preparing for the final hurdle, in the expectation that he could improve on his sixth placing in 2002.

Kempthorne also becomes the fourth old boy of Central Southland High School in Winton in recent years to win the contest. The previous winners were Grant (1992) and Warwick (1995) Catto, and last year’s winner, Tim Porter.

Kempthorne predicted that the runner-up in this year’s Otago-Southland regional final, Fred Dodson, could make the grand final again in 2004 and win the contest for a Central Southland High School trifecta.

Collingwood, aged 28, is allowed under the rules to have one more go at a grand final, and on the basis of this year’s performance, she stands an excellent chance of going one place better in 2004.

However when asked if she would compete again next year, she asked for more time to consider the impact on her life and husband Tony Collingwood.

He had been very supportive this year, especially after a grueling day of practicals and Agrisports, which are taxing for all competitors, she said.

TV One viewers saw an uninterrupted show on Saturday night, but the pre-recording earlier in the evening in the Opera House was eventful.

The start was delayed as many invited guests, including the Leader of the Opposition, Bill English, were delayed by the snow falls which hit Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay late on Saturday.

With the Opera House drawing a huge load of electricity, power surges and tripped fuses then played havoc with television equipment.

The final buzzer round of two minutes of questions actually took more like 20 minutes, and three attempts to get finished, before Kempthorne was declared winner.

An emotional Kempthorne then credited Collingwood for her competitiveness and his partner Anna, for programming his study.

Another grand final favourite, agronomist Tim Cookson from Tasman, was a strong contender through the practicals and Agrisport, but failed to make ground on Kempthorne and Collingwood last Saturday.

Fourth-placed Paul McGill, at 24 the youngest in the grand final seven by several years, is confidently predicted to represent East Coast again some time in the future and improve on his final result.

After six years both Wrightson and AGMARDT have withdrawn from the contest and a new principal sponsor has been secured for 2004.

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