So a fairly new “all the gear and no idea”, broken down old fencer, too old for steep farm stuff – that’s young fella work right?, got offered a plum job, a deer exclusion fence on Stewart Island. There are plenty of Whitetail on Stewart Island, as you know!
The Rakiura Maori Land Trust administer a wide portfolio of SILNA lands on Rakiura, and one property at the Old Neck offered the opportunity to exclude deer with a short fence from cliff to cliff across a peninsular – simple really!
The Trust’s consultant, Roger Lough arranged for us to inspect the site together in late July, and the challenges of the job started to become apparent, very exposed beaches with tricky approaches, no machinery access possible, thick “muttonbird” scrub and some restrictions on what could be cut e.g. Southern Rata or moved no cutting into dunes. Some positives included that it looked like a good line of 250 meters might be possible with no gullies or guts, and following a very smooth contour. In addition, the Trust agreed that the use of Waratah galvanised Jio Maxy posts and strainer/strut systems – on the first look very expensive product, but for this or other jobs where access for conventional machinery is not practical – very cost effective.
It was obvious that logistics for men, materials, and weather were going to be the key considerations. I generally quote all my work, my wife says that’s why I don’t make any money, but there were just too many variables for this job to have a fixed cost.
So I split my pricing into elements where I could control costs, things like accommodation and the actual fence construction, and the variable costs like transport, the clearing of the line, etc.
I was assisted by Brendon Crequer of Waratah and Ryan D’Ath of Farmlands to get the gear – and worked with Paula Blair, Farmlands Invercargill who did a great job.
At the 2017 FCANZ conference in Christchurch I resolved to approach someone up to help “on the line” with the fencing and after an intense selection process, I have a lot more sympathy for Steve Hansen now, I lined up Noaksee – and like the good bugger he is, he accepted right off. Noaksee had a trip south scheduled so it made sense to tie the project in with it, but working to a fixed timetable with Stewart Island weather was always going to be tough.
The Trust wanted to use 150 dropper deer netting, which weights 120kgs per coil and as it had to be carried up a beach, then up quite a steep track for 150 metres or so I broke the coils down into 33M lengths (40 kgs) and re-rolled them. The day I had to load them on the trailer it blew like hell and until I parked up into the wind it actually blew the load off twice – I lost a lot of sweat and made up new cuss words. The Jio Maxy’s are not light either so they were bundled into 3’s.
Just over two tonnes of materials and gear were loaded onto the Foveaux Freighter for delivery to the Halfmoon Bay wharf.
From there they were collected by Jim Barnett who operates a barge on the island. Jim had just finished pulling up his oyster farm due to
the Bonamia outbreak – a devastating blow. However, he rounded up a crew, and after two attempts due to the weather and the difficult beach at Sand-spit, got all the gear above the tideline. A major milestone.
I’d allowed two days to cut the line and two to construct the fence. Noaksee turned up as promised on a Saturday and we went through all our tools to ensure everything we needed was packed . . . a few wheels fell off, the motorised driver wouldn’t fit the Maxy’s. I had previously built a special driver to fit the 2.7 metre high Maxy’s so we had that covered but the fear of missing a vital tool or component was very real. It’s a long swim to get it! The second wheel to go was the weather, it completely turned and the Sunday ferry we were supposed to be on was canceled.
Foster Price, Price Fencing