From mountain rescue to high country and alpine fencing

Andy Lucia And Son

In 2021 Andy Tindal and Lucia Chiclana purchased C. A. Fencing and registered their new business as Otago Fencing Services Ltd. They quickly brought on four new crew allowing them to take on large scale work like the current high-country job at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds, a facility used for automotive testing of some of the world’s highest performing vehicles.

When Stockade caught up with Andy it was a brisk clear morning in the South. He was heading to work in the Cardrona Valley where he reckons it is generally six degrees colder compared with nearby Wanaka and the wind can be fierce.

“We are right up at the top of the mountain working at about 1500 metres above sea level. I am looking up at Mt Aspiring so that’s a pretty nice way to start the day. It’s chilly – but stunning views this morning”.

Lots of work…

The Otago Fencing Services crew spend a good two or three months every year up at the Proving Grounds. They’ve already clipped on seven kilometres of triple barbed wire perimeter fencing this year. Then there’s a lot of snow fencing, deer fence and repairs and maintenance.

Andy is no stranger to working at altitude. Mountains have played a big part in his life. He spent years as a guide and running the Aoraki Mt Cook Search and Rescue team. When he and Lucia started a family, they reconsidered their adrenaline pumping life as mountain guides.

Lucia says they were looking for a balance between work and fun and family. Fencing had a lot of potential and the great outdoors.

“The opportunity for fencing came and Andy was really keen…so we jumped in and made it happen”.

For Andy and Lucia, buying an established business hasn’t been the smoothest transition they’d hoped for but proving themselves on large-scale and staged projects gives a lot more certainty and promise for the business. The large-scale jobs also offer plenty of variety for the crew who tend to work together as one fencing gang. And Andy is keeping his eye out for new staff.

Andy is also no stranger to the fence line. He worked shepherding and fencing across the Otago and McKenzie Country high country a decade or so ago. He says the high hill country and alpine fencing has its own considerations.

At the Proving Ground, above ground it’s the wind and snow.

“The wind is super strong. When it starts to carry wet snow that can put a huge weight on your posts and wire and push things over. Really solid posts are key. And you’ve got to take your time with getting your post placements right and fixing the timber on to make sure to lock it in tight.”

Andy is using 2.7m x1.40 or 1.60 posts as intermediates and on occasion up to 3.5–4m strainer posts in soft terrain. Underground is a really mixed bag.

“Generally, really tight ground. Most of the time, around the roads, drilling post holes can be slow. You can’t use a rock spike often because the surface is so hard on your equipment. Away from tracked areas it is often very soft.”

Never Miss A Bit

Services are another consideration. Andy says there are “a heap of services” running beneath the snow and before starting any job on the Proving Ground, a ground radar is used to scan for any pipes, services, gas— or anything. Then, gas and power are turned off while the crew completes each section on the mountain.

Then there’s a super fine dust that gets into the equipment and everything else.

“Drills and everything up here can die really fast.”

Andy says the Stockade ST400i stapler has gone great the whole way through.

“Never missed a beat. An asset!”

ST400i time…

The Stockade power stapler came on board at Otago Fencing Services not long after Andy and Lucia had started running their fencing business and arrived to help them pick up speed on jobs, especially with a small crew.

Andy’s favourite thing is the simplicity of the tool.

“You can hand it to anyone, and they can use it within a minute of instruction – and it is fast, safe and very reliable— and it is super easy to clean.

Next year, the crew will be looking at seven kilometres of deer fencing on the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds. Up at the high-performance testing ground, Andy expects the ST400i to fly through the deer fencing – and says his crew won’t be so fatigued at the end of the day.

Working Up On The Mountain

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