Tag Archives: fencing

From soft soils to solid rock – matching technique to terrain

Jake Burns remembers growing up surrounded by all things fencing and farming – he soaked it all up. At 15, he left school and began working for a local contractor in Matamata. Jake’s dad, Bryce Burns, was a fencing contractor too. Bryce carried on farming but had hung up the wire strainers by the time Jake took up the tools 12 years ago.

Fence work quickly took the teenager across the Waikato, down to Taranaki, over to Gisborne on the East Coast, and South to the Mackenzie Basin, then through the rest of the Mainland. He gained first-hand experience of the variety of terrain, environments, and fencing styles New Zealand has to offer.

“Gisborne is challenging land. Steep rough rugged country in the back blocks. At the time I started there, everything was done by hand because you couldn’t get a lot of machinery up into the hills. It was spade and hammer stuff. Physical work.”

Webjake Burns

“Now, in Te Anau, the ground is hard. We use rock spikes and rock drills to blast through bedrock. Some people use explosives as well. It is definitely some of the hardest ground that I have fenced in. Steep in places, but mostly rolling hill country down to flat land. It took me some time learning how to fence in this ground coming from the Waikato. Up North, it is soft ground and beautiful soil. Down here, it is hard rocky ground, totally different.”

Over the last decade, Jake has found what techniques work for him and developed his own style.

“When I started fencing, I knew the basics. Then, as I moved around the country, I saw that many fencing contractors had their own ways of doing things. It was a great way to learn a lot of different fencing skills and techniques as well as what fence or wire work might suit one environment more than another. I love that variety.”

“Another great aspect of fence contracting is that we are a curious bunch. It’s not unusual to have a bit of a yarn and share ideas about different fencing systems or the best tools we’ve used across various projects.”

Jake and his partner Chelsea George are now in the Te Anau Basin, having relocated near the end of 2021 while still in the sting of Covid restrictions. Access to the great outdoors, hunting, and the good nature of Southland people were big parts of what drew them in. Jake started JB Fencing in August 2021. “As a business, I focus on rural fencing and stockyards. I don’t expect to be the biggest fencing contractor in the region, but I want my reputation as a fencer to be built on the quality of my work, efficiency, and reliability.”

Greg, Jake’s very first employer, encouraged him to go out on his own.

“Greg is a very successful fencer himself. His confidence in my abilities helped me take the leap. I can call him up for advice which has been invaluable. Reaching out and getting to know local farmers and fencing contractors has also been really key to managing these early days of the business. Presently, I’m subcontracting as part of a crew on a big predator fencing project with waratahs and six-foot netting.”

As part of the new business set up, Jake purchased a Stockade ST400i cordless power stapler.

“It is probably my favourite tool – I rate them. I’d have used the ST400i a lot during several contracts around the country. I love the speed and reliability. By the time I can staple off two posts with a hammer, using the ST400i I would have already done four and it doesn’t bash up insulators like a hammer will. It will shoot straight. It’s simple and there’s no mucking around.”

“Also, it’s so easy to use, when you have new staff, you can send them away with the ST400i and you know that the tool will do the job correctly.”

Still, moving into a new business was not without trepidation. Jake had moved to a new region, bought large ticket items including a tractor and post driver, and began building up a client base from zero.

“The reward of starting my own business by far outweighs the risk. For me, it’s the reward of meeting new people, being my own boss and forging my own path, and I’m always still learning. There’s flexibility of working on your own or as part of a crew. I love doing a good job, seeing the finished product, and seeing people happy with my work. My hope is to build the business and take on staff — and I’d like to get some big station project work.”

“Fencing is a good business to be in….”

To learn more about our Stockade products, please visit www.stockade.com.

From mountain rescue to high country and alpine fencing

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

To learn more about our Stockade products, please visit www.stockade.com.

Age no barrier to carve out a career in fencing

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.

To learn more about our Stockade products, please visit www.stockade.com.

Down to the wire

When the Stockade team crossed paths with Gregg Holmes and Max Walton, we were captivated by the tale of travel, adventure, and the saving grace of great fencing skills.

Adventure begins, 1984

Gregg Holmes caught the travel bug as a young trainee from Ashhurst on a seven-month international agricultural exchange to Canada. Alberta seemed ‘tractor heaven’ and with a few weeks off to explore Canada, the US and Mexico, he awakened his wandering spirit. On his return home he picked up a fencing job to finance his next adventure – Denmark. He fenced some more before falling into sheep shearing with nil experience, plenty of enthusiasm and credentials as a Kiwi enough to satisfy the Danes.

Greggholmes Travel1

Fast track to 2020

The Kiwi fencer and, now, international man of the land, is heading South across continental America. With cracked ribs, doped up on painkillers and fighting an onset of hypothermia from the chilling blast of an incoming Artic storm, he is living the dream!

Gregg is crossing the globe top-down from the Artic Circle to Sub Antarctic South America, and then beyond, on his Honda Africa Twin, 1000cc dual-purpose adventure bike. He rides from Alaska arriving in Alberta 30 years after his first stint there. He is back on the combine harvesters. This time they are the latest high-tech million dollar, GPS auto-steer machines. Then it’s onward to Utah in subzero temperatures followed by a relaxed trip to Panama.

In Panama, Gregg connects with an engineer, an Indian National, who he’d met in Alaska for 10 minutes. The pair have arranged to ride together and cross the water to Columbia on a 113-year old, steel-hulled ketch to avoid the Darien Gap – a mosquito-infested jungle, almost impenetrable and notorious for its poisonous snakes, escaped murderers and drug barons. Then it’s a four-day stomach-churning sail to safety.

Finally, it’s smooth. It is land. Dust, gravel, and roads less travelled from Columbia to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile. Finally, Gregg is standing in Ushuaia, Argentina, the Southernmost city in the world, 45,000 kms from Alaska and ready for his next leg.

72 hours and down to the wire

In Argentina there is talk of “Italy.” That’s not Gregg’s intended destination. “Talk of ‘COVID’.”

Within 12 hours, national parks are closing. A notice comes from the hostel. “Argentinian borders close in 72 hours”. It’s a heart-stopping 3000 km ride to Buenos Aires. Gregg must transit through a small section of Chile, then back into Argentina on the same day. The government issues an edict requiring any person entering the country to be quarantined for 14 days. This instigates a series of roadblocks and police checks. Gregg is detained. He is issued with travel papers to move through checkpoints. No, there’s a misunderstanding. They are not travel papers at all but notice of quarantine. Leaving the hotel means risking arrest. The embassy is no help. The police, doctor, and interpreter return and with some fast talking Gregg is on his way and locks in a flight with LATAM Air.

Things change rapidly: Flight cancelled. Rescheduled. On, off. No airport entry without a valid ticket. No valid ticket. Starting to panic. No commercial flights. Last hope is a government-sanctioned flight to San Diego, Chile. Full lockdown, curfew, military – everywhere.

And a flight!


Time to reflect

Auckland, 25 March. It is Level 4 lockdown. Gregg arrives, holds up in an RV and recalls how earlier life plans had sent him on a different course.

“Returning from Denmark 30 years ago I had a grand plan of becoming an agricultural pilot. I took a job at Lochiniver Station to set up two big tractors they had brought over from the States and ended up staying for 6 ½ years, getting married and having our first child… Flying went out the window and I moved North, to rural South Auckland, where I invested in a helicopter business. The guy turned out to be a conman, took all we had saved.”

It was a big life lesson for Gregg and time to dig deep and build back up using the skills and resources Gregg had on hand.

Starting anew

“I put a flyer out around Ardmore and Brookby. ‘I will fence, relief milk, paint, a few other things’. Then the phone never stopped ringing. More and more it kept coming back to fencing. I started up my own company in 1995.”

Fencing brought Gregg a stable, reliable income for 25 years. “I fenced alone for a while, built up a team and a reputation. It’s been a great business in a unique area. Through all the economic downturns, fencing, for me anyway, has never waned.”

The next leg

“Then came Max Walton. A young guy looking for work. He had an aptitude for fencing. I showed him a few things and he picked them up straight away. I knew I’d better hold on to him.”

Two or three years in, Gregg recalls Max thinking about going out on his own and Max recalls Gregg seeding thoughts of transition for ownership and promising plenty of opportunity if he put in a hard day’s work.

“We did the transition over a couple of years to make sure the clients were happy. Max had good skills there – but a few things to learn in a business sense. The clients were in agreeance of staying on and over those years Max took on more responsibility. We agreed on a price.”

Gregg knows identifying and fostering Max’s young talent and mentoring him to become a business owner opened up his lifetime dream of riding around the world on a motorcycle.

He didn’t know that planning ahead and investing in Max was about to pay dividends in other ways.

Coming full circle – 2020 lockdown, New Zealand

Under Level 4 lockdown Max is working on his own. Stock containment is essential work. His two staff have been unable to join him. Where could he find a reliable experienced new hire in this environment? Walk in Gregg.

“It’s been great having Gregg’s experience back on board. Everything I learnt about fencing, I learnt from Gregg himself – so I can trust he will do a great job.” Max likens fencing to riding a bike. “Once you know what you are doing and have the basic knowledge about how a fence is constructed, you have a skill for life.”

And Gregg is happy to be on the job too. He has a boss he has handpicked. Still, a couple of things have changed. Work isn’t quite as hard as when he left since Max won a Stockade ST315 batten stapler from last year’s FCANZ AGM, then quickly invested in the ST400i post stapler for the team.

Max says there’s that much work to do, and he knows efficiency is key.

“I am adapting, bringing some modern technology and equipment into the business to make our lives as fencers so much easier. Since getting the gas-operated tool, it’s opened up a whole lot of uses. We always struggled to get a compressor down some of those steep hills. Now with the ST315i batten stapler you don’t even think about it. You just grab it and head off. Repair work or new work, the ST400i post stapler is really useful, definitely speeds things up and saves the arm from stapling away.”

Looking ahead

As for the future – Gregg is enjoying the beautiful New Zealand outdoors while he waits to reconnect with his bike and saves up for his next adventure. This time, Africa. Max is already thinking about the next generation of fencers. He has brought on an 18-year old who is already showing talent.

“He’s keen, reliable and turns up every day and is proving a valuable part of the team already.”