Billy Black - Wool and Tourism

September 2014

An unusual tourism business based on the virtues of wool and unique accommodation

Former shearer and farmer Barry Woods has developed a unique, international, award-winning, rural tourist business at Waitomo, including a kiwi culture show for local and overseas visitors.

Barry grew up helping his dad cut down scrub and reclaim farmland in a small settlement called Taharoa on the West Coast of the North Island, southwest of Kawhia Harbour.

Barry left Taharoa and starting shearing full time with the aim of getting his own block of land. His dad reckoned he was crazy but that made Barry more determined, a trait that he still carries with him.

He ended up shearing with John Fagan (older brother of David), although he never gave the sports shearing “thing” a go, but he became good enough to travel with his handpiece. Barry sheared all over the world and saved up every cent he could with the idea of coming back to buy a farm.

Around about 1989 Barry bought a run down 700acre farm in Otorohanga. He deliberately bought straight after the share market crash and worked hard to improve the land. There was a lot of gorse so it was back to what he’d had growing up at Taharoa.

In 1998 Barry sold the Otorohanga farm and moved on to tourism. “ The reason for selling and changing direction, “ says Barry, “was that I had achieved the goal of doing a farm up and was looking for another challenge. Having travelled the world shearing, I had come to realize that NZ had something special to offer the world as a place to visit, so I thought tourism would eventually make its mark here.”

The germ of the idea for Woodlyn Park came one night as Barry was scribbling on a piece of paper at the kitchen table. He’d seen a number of agriculture shows for tourists and thought there was some space for something that celebrated NZ’s pioneering history on the land. The Kiwi Culture show was born.

He says he’s always been something of practical joker and enjoyed more than his fair share of leg pulling whilst shearing. The show he delivers has some of that sense of humour in it.

Barry bought a 10 acre block just outside the Waitomo township. He built a large complex from scratch, including a dining room/restaurant area and an auditorium for the show.   He has also installed what could loosely be described as alternative accommodation.   There’s an old Bristol Freighter which has been converted into motel units; railway carriages, some hobbit holes and most recently a massive boat.

The establishment of the park took him a year. He says if he’d not had the training from the shearing lifestyle, he couldn’t have coped with the hours.

Barry adopts the “character” Billy Black for the show. He is decked out in a black singlet and a hat. The show includes a fair amount of audience participation and some animals that Barry has trained. Barry is also developing a mobile show for the corporate sector so that he can go to them. It obviously won’t include as many animals but he takes a bit of gear with him. And he’s learnt to tap dance in gumboots, which apparently goes down well.

Barry’s known about wool from his days as a shearer but has recently taken up wool as a personal educational crusade. His recent show demonstrates the qualities of wool against its synthetic alternatives. His demonstration of the fire-resistant qualities of wool makes for great audience participation.