Age no barrier to carve out a career in fencing

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Lachaidh Shannon puts in a few kilometres of fencing every year. Agricultural and predator exclusion fences stretch across some of New Zealand’s most spectacular coastline. Banks Peninsula is mountains, hilly country, harbour, cliffs, sea, and bush as far as the eye can see.

Most often the high school student from Akaroa Area School is working his weekends and holidays alongside local fencing contractor Tom Evans of TD Evans Contracting.

“I love the places you get to go and the machinery you get to use, the evolution of what’s going on, the travel and the work ethic” he says.

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Lachaidh might be only 14 years old, but he says his fascination with fencing started a long time ago — way back as a youngster “playing around with standards and string on the lawn”. It wasn’t until Tom did some internal electric fencing around wetlands on the family’s beef and dairy farm a couple of years ago that he reckons he “got right into fencing”.

Tom was impressed with Lachaidh too. “Lachaidh asked a lot of questions and was genuinely interested in how everything worked from all the functions of a post driver through to the general basics of a fence.”

Soon after, Lachaidh began working with Tom every school holidays. Then work ramped up. Two summers ago, just before Christmas, floods ripped through in the Eastern Bays of Banks Peninsula. It was devastating. In some areas fences were completely destroyed from slips and flooding. Tom’s crew had to get a lot done as quickly as possible.

“Lachaidh really stepped up and worked hard helping us get people’s farms back in some sort of working order,” says Tom.

Since then, the young fencer is regularly up and on the line by 9:30 on the weekends, finishing at 4pm or 5pm.

Tom has been reinforcing the important basics of fence work with him.

“Like doing things safely, tie downs and efficient systems and ways of doing things that save time from laying gear out to wiring up and battening. The latest thing he has learned is how to do is a box stay assembly that is mortised on both ends which is pretty impressive for his age.”

“He has also grown a healthy obsession for spending his earnings on top quality fencing tools and now has a very impressive collection. Which is great. Good tools help to make fencing enjoyable.”

Lachaidh recalls the big five-week job repairing the flood damage.

“I spent five days doing battens with Tom with one of his ST315i stapler battening tools and really enjoyed it. So, I bought my own. It’s not very heavy and you can get through a good amount of battening in good time without getting tired, or sore arms. I just love it. When I first started using it, I was surprised there was no kick back. It was straight in, no multiple hits. One hit and you are done.

“Amazing machines. The post gun is really nice for netting and the batten gun is good quality.”

Tom has seen Lachaidh develop in skill and confidence over the last two years.

“Lachaidh’s passion for fencing and eagerness to learn as much as he can sets him apart. To be a good fencer long term you really have to love it. The good and the bad. Everything else can be learned if you have that. We desperately need more young people keen to make a career of fencing.”

Lachaidh By The Sea

In the next few years, Lachaidh hopes to be fencing full time, digger driving and doing agricultural and cropping work around New Zealand. He’s already branching out to build his own fencing client base.

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