West Otago Young Farmers members win national fencing title

Posted by on 7 February 2019 | Comments

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Two West Otago Young Farmers members have taken out a national fencing competition in Christchurch.

Luke Kane, 30, and Isaac Johnston, 25, won the PGG Wrightson Fencing Competition, which was held as part of the AGMARDT NZ Young Farmers Conference.

Isaac has worked as a fencer since 2014 and is stoked with the win.

Isaac Johnston Otago Southland.“My first job was for Geoff Rogers at Kirwee-based High Country Fencing, so I was weary of being asked to dig holes in that area,” he laughed.

“The ground isn’t that stony, but it’s very, very hard.”

The pair faced tough competition, with Lachlan Fee and Sean Taylor from the Taranaki/Manawatūregion first to finish.

“Looking across to see that gave us the kick up the bum we needed to work a bit faster,” he said.

“But it always pays take a few extra minutes to ensure your fence is perfect before calling time. Every point counts.”

It’s Isaac’s second time competing in the national final.

"I love getting out there and competing with mates. It is great fun and it’s an excellent way to improve my fencing skills,” he said.

Isaac moved to Tapanui in June last year, taking over the lease of his grandfather’s 80 hectare farm.

“It’s a glorified lifestyle block,” he laughed. “But I’ve always had a passion for the farm and the area.”

Isaac runs 600 breeding ewes, 350 replacement ewe lambs, and grazes a few cattle on the property.

He recently completed an agribusiness diploma through PrimaryITO and runs his own fencing contracting business.

Isaac has a couple of theories about New Zealand’s shortage of fencers.

“There’s a lot of pressure on young people to go to university and get degrees. The schooling system ignores the trades,” he said.

“It doesn’t help that fencing is not considered a professional industry in the way that being a builder or electrician is.”

The Fencing Contractors’ Association NZ is attempting to address the problem with a new national qualification.

The New Zealand Certificate in Fencing is being run by Northland-based NorthTec.

It launched in Hamilton last year and will expand to include Christchurch in April.

“I’ve been a fencer for five years and I’m eager to obtain the qualification,” he said.

“But I can’t work and travel all the way to Christchurch half a dozen times to attend my nearest course.”

“It’s hard for NorthTec to justify holding courses in more regions because so few young people are entering the industry,” he said.

Isaac finds fencing rewarding and he urges other young people to consider it as a career option.


PGG Wrightson Fencing Competition

1st Luke Kane and Isaac Johnston (Otago/Southland)

2nd Peter O’ Connor and Philippa Mee (Tasman)

3rd Lachlan Fee and Sean Taylor (Taranaki/Manawatū