Joanna Grigg

Fencers are gearing up for the phone to run hot in 2020.

Mike Renner, Renner Contracting, Marlborough, says labour would be the biggest issue for him if the proposed Draft Stock Exclusion Section 360 Regulations becomes operable with fencing waterway deadlines of 2021 and 2023.

“You need trained people who know what they are doing.”

For farmers considering their options, Renner says a netting fence with a barb or wire on top is ideal for non-flooding lowland wetlands that need sheep excluded as well as cattle.

“As long as the ground is reasonably flat, not undulating, then netting is within 50 cents a metre of seven-wire fences.”

The price is comparable as the labour cost is lower with netting. Full or quarter rounds should be placed 3-4m apart, he says.

For river beds prone to floods Renner suggests a two-wire fence with wires on the down-river side and unbarbed staples that pop under pressure.

“You can also get metal posts with clips that pop under pressure too.”

For budget options, used vineyard quarter-round posts that were originally 2.4m and now broken off to 1.8m can often be sourced for free. As long as they are at least 1.8m they should handle softer ground, Renner says.

For areas where you can’t get a post-driver, he suggests using Australian-sourced warratahs for endurance, rather than Y Posts made in China.

“I’m not afraid to say I don’t recommend Chinese-made products based on my experience.”

“They do not have the right carbon content to bend so are hard to install and can mushroom on impact, although they have got better since the complaints were sent through.”

The metal tends to be from products recycled many times, he says, while the Australian posts are made from metal recycled only once.

Brad Joines, Fencing Contractors New Zealand, also recommends the genuine warratah with electric wires, especially for steeper areas.

“They are my go-to product as they are quick and easy to install and have a great lifespan.”

Fire damage is less likely with metal rather than wooden posts although insulators may need to be replaced. When post-driving fencing is an option, he suggests number one rounds (130 to 150mm) as they have a life span of at least 40 years.

“Quarter rounds can lose strength after 20.”

Picking a line along a waterway will be a trade-off between reducing the number of angles along the fence and not losing too much grazing. Joines suggests farmers aim to get the fence out of the flood zone and look at planting trees for timber or firewood in suitable parts of the excluded area.

“There will be cases where a five-metre set-back fence will actually create more erosion and sediment loss along a slope.”

Whatever the fence type, Joines says farmers should try to employ a certified fencer.

“Probably about 10% of our members are certified with industry accreditation but we would like to lift it to 40% in the near future.”

“This means they have all the right health and safety and employment accreditation too.”

“The association has been putting a big effort into training of fencers too.”

Basic cost $5k

2016 report into cattle exclusion costs shows prices differ quite markedly between regions and contractors. The survey showed a range from $2.91 to $8.58/metre for a two-wire electric on the flat and from $3.21 to $10.58/m for rolling land.

With fencing of waterways on low-slope land on the Government agenda, farmers need to be budgeting between $3000 and $10,000 for a kilometre of creek fencing on flat or rolling country.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) report was prepared by The AgriBusiness Group and calculated costs for fencing and planting the excluded area.

Fencing labour costs were collected through telephone and email surveys of 52 members of the New Zealand Fencing Association (FCANZ) from all regions. Regional Councils, Department of Conservation (DOC), Landcare Research, AgResearch, Waihora Ellesmere Trust, QEII Trust and Landcare Trust were also surveyed.

Wooden fencing material (strainer posts, stay posts, posts and battens) were cheaper in the North Island but labour tended to be more expensive than the South Island. All other fencing materials were the same price within companies and the only price differences were found between companies.

The report highlighted the need for good planning of fence locations.

It states that fencing and riparian planting for stock exclusion can have both adverse and positive impacts on the farm system. Adverse impacts of fencing include chance of increased degradation of waterways through prolific weed growth causing seed transfer and fire risk.

Allowing access by sheep (using a single wire) could reduce this risk.

There is a risk of physical damage to waterways as a result of debris trapped in fence-lines. In these situations, the report suggests it may be more beneficial to use higher-density planting, sediment traps, wetlands, buried drains or a combination of these and stock management strategies to enhance waterway health in the lower catchments.

As well as the new fence, costs to farmers could include realigning existing fence lines, adding culverts and, most likely, installing a water reticulation system.

Maintenance costs for this extra infrastructure was also calculated in the report. The additional annual cost is estimated at 1%/year of capital cost for fencing and up to 5% of the capital cost/year for reticulated water depending on water system type.

If riparian planting is included farmers can budget on $3.67 per linear metre for native flax and sedge/grass type plants. The report assumes plants are at 1.5m spacing and a density of 4500 plants/hectare.

The report noted many of the contractors commented that profit margins were tight and they tried to price jobs to equal an hourly rate of $45 to $50.

An updated figure for 2019 would be closer to $50/hour.

Labour costs for fencing rolling country were similar to flat. Steep country (where holes were dug by hand, not driven) averaged 134% of the cost of fencing on the rolling country.

The cost of installing a piped stock water scheme looks likely to add close to $7000 for a 10ha area and $14,000 for 50ha.


  • Install gates (metal or electric) to get stock out easily
  • Future proof in case sheep excluded too
  • Consider bigger set-back to keep above flood line
  • Fence endurance priority over cost
  • Consider timber or firewood trees in fenced area to make some sort of return