Saturday, December 9, 2023

Class act as high school fencers pitch in with cyclone relief

Neal Wallace
Geraldine High School prefect and pals travel north to help rebuild fences.
Geraldine High School student Matthew O’Connor hard at work in Ōtāne in Hawke’s Bay as part of a Fencing Contractors Association effort to help with the re-fencing of farms hit by Cyclone Gabrielle.
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It was a chance for Aidan Christie to put his fencing skills into practice in the most useful way.

The Geraldine High School deputy head boy and two classmates travelled from South Canterbury to Hawke’s Bay to join 25 contract fencers who spent two days replacing fences destroyed by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Christie, 17, Quinn Foley-Smith, 17, and Matthew O’Connor, 16, are all studying a Primary Industry Academy course, a high school course linked to the Primary Industry Training Organisation.

One course that attracted Christie was fencing, to the point he has entered competitions and secured a part-time job with local fencing contractor Ben Haugh.

It’s the reward of seeing the fruits of a day’s work that he finds attractive.

“It’s rewarding to look back at what you’ve been doing for the day.”

When the call went out from the New Zealand Fencing Contractors Association for fencers to help farmers in Hawke’s Bay, the three raised funds to travel north.

Christie said the damage was devastating.

“It was so sad see those farms ruined, covered in silt. It must be so hard for them.”

He estimates the students helped replace about 2km of fencing, which they erected under the guidance of some of the country’s leading fencers.

“They gave us lots of advice, how to tidy our work and how to be more efficient.”

Christie’s family runs a sheep and beef farm and he plans to attend Lincoln University next year to study a Diploma of Agriculture and Diploma in Farm Management while continuing to fence as he can.

He credits his school’s Primary Industry Academy with introducing him farming skills such as fencing.

“Without the course, I would not be where I am today.”

He hopes to travel north again in spring when association members plan another trip to help replace damaged fencing.

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