Friday, December 8, 2023

Waterway fencing costs ‘unrealistic’

Neal Wallace
The Government appears to have underestimated the cost of fencing waterways to exclude farm livestock by about 50%.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Shane Beets | November 02, 2020 from GlobalHQ on Vimeo.

Fencing Contractors NZ (FCNZ) board member Shane Beets says fencing costs vary according to region, terrain, materials and individual businesses, but figures quoted by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) as part of its Essential Freshwater policy are not realistic.

“The figures quoted I would say are certainly unrepresentative of the reality in the industry,” he said.

“It looks to me that based on average figures, they would be at least half what the reality is.”

The MfE’s Essential Freshwater document released last month estimates 32,000km of waterways will have to be fenced under the new stock exclusion rules at an estimated cost of $773 million.

It calculates fencing costs at $5/m for dairy, $14/m for sheep and beef and $20/m for deer.

Doubts were raised by submitters at the accuracy of those estimates, but those concerns appear to have been ignored by officials.

Beets is also questioning the accuracy of the estimated 32,000km of fencing required and whether that includes small block holders and other landowners.

FCNZ was not approached by government officials to get updated estimates and Beets believes they have relied on outdated costings.

The freshwater rules require applicable waterways to be fenced by 2025 and Beets says having enough staff and materials to meet that deadline will be a challenge.

“The Government legislation for freshwater requires fencing by 2025,” he said.

“That said, where are all the posts going to come from?”

With 29,000 farmers and an estimated 1500 fencing contractors, there is plenty of work pending, but like all trades the industry has struggled to recruit staff.

Mike Renner, also a FCNZ board member, says some larger farmers who may have fenced waterways themselves, could employ a contractor to do the work, adding to the already high demand.

Renner works in Marlborough and says fencing waterways in the high country will be challenging.

Beets, who works north of Auckland, says fencing included as part of Government-initiated shovel-ready projects, such as on the Kaipara Harbour, should be done by certified fencers.

Certification provides certainty of workmanship and that the contractor has comprehensive health and safety policies.

“The reality is there aren’t many certified fencers in the industry, which poses another problem,” he said.

The extra volume of work has encouraged FCNZ to up its profile and encourage new members to join and become certified.

“We are all doing the work and the more fencing contractors that get involved with FCNZ and become members and get certified, the better it is for the industry and their businesses,” he said.

“There is a lot of fencing to do out there.”

The association is working with the Whangarei tertiary education provider NorthTec to deliver the NZQA Level 3 course in fencing.

Beets says interest from students is high and it should increase the pool of fencers and increase the number of certified fencers.

The MfE was asked to respond to questions about its fencing costings, but did not reply by deadline.

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