FCANZ WIRED magazine June 2022

When a unique pest-proofing job near Lake Te Anau in Southland presented itself, Winton-based contractor Stephen Mee jumped at the challenge.

Stage 1 of the development project is a 5km boundary fenceline at a large-scale organic farm, deep in the Te Anau basin and is not like anything Stephen's done in his 30-odd years contracting.

"Nothing like a challenge," Stephen told WIRED Magazine.

The protect is to keep out a number of pests such as deer, pigs, possums, stoats and rabbits. At the start of May this year they were over a third of the way through the first stage of the project, with four staff on the job.

With no pest eradication carried out on the property, it was being eaten out of "house and home", Stephen says.

He was approached by Waratah about doing the job earlier this year.

"The fencelines were bulldozed and ready to put a price on."

Gear required for the job included Waratahs, wire, netting, outriggers, a compressor, bolts and clips, and clip guns, which Stephen said had been a "lifesaver".

It was hard to price such an unusual job, but after doing a "fair bit of research" he was able to get to one.

"It's difficult to price something off a plan because the best-laid intentions to the plans have changed about three times."

Materials were carefully chosen and consist of 9-foot JiO MaxY Waratahs with 9 lines of 3.15mm HT Longlife Blue wire, one of 2.5mm HT, Floppy top outriggers and then rabbit netting to cover a 400mm ground apron, the 1900mm high fence and the 600mm floppy top.

Steel strainers and Adjusta stays were also used. The 100 per cent steel system was chosen for a number of reasons, including freight costs to the remote location and less ongoing maintenance.

The terrain posed some issues for the gang - "dream on - it's too hard and too stony," - and rattler was not able to bang in the Waratahs.

A Taege side mount post driver was bought in by fellow contractor Jake Burns, and Stephen strainer it up.

Another challenge was wild deer on the neighbouring property.

"I didn't anticipate having to contend with wild deer. If you leave something out overnight, they'll get caught up in it. So, we have to be quite careful about what we leave unstrained."

Installing the floppy top had been "quite the exercise."

"You've got to put the outrigger on before you put the netting up. It can be a bit awkward, but we've found a way around it. It's called brute force and ignorance!"

Labour content for the job was huge. Clipping alone required two full-time staff.

"It's by far the most labour-intensive job I've done for a while."

There are three tractors on the job - a Veltra with a post driver unit, a John Deere 6510, and a John Deere 6534 with a Taege post driver.

The job required a large amount of netting.

"At the moment we're running the netting out. They wanted netting on the outside, so we're working on a bulldozed side... there's a limited amount of room. There was quite a bit of work in preparing the fenceline."

Stephen said he was tackling the job "piece by piece".

"We just work it out bit by bit. First the strainers, then bulldoze the lines and put posts in. We broke the fence down to the wire, to the netting and then to the floppy top."

An added bonus was it was one of the more picturesque jobs he'd done.

"We've got views of Lake Te Anau and the mountains in the background."

His staff - locals that he found through word of mouth and knowing people in the area - were working hard.

"They like to get on with the job."

The fenceline had already proved to be working well.

"We've been watching. We watched a hedgehog the other day and even that couldn't get through it."

"A 12-point stag was running up and down the line, and even he wouldn't have a go at it."

The job would stand out in his long and established career that had included working in Canada, Australia and the USA.

"I've been fencing for 30-odd years on and off, and I've done some pretty interesting jobs in my time, and this one's right up there with them."

Stephen Mee

For this story & more visit - https://fcanz.co.nz/wired-june-2022/