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Contactor profile: Perkins Contracting and Mowing

Farm Trader catches up with Perkins Contracting and Mowing Ltd – a specialist mowing and vegetation control business based in Wellington

Whatever goes on around the country, it’s a fair certainty that the grass keeps on growing. Which is good news for Shawn Perkins and his business Perkins Contracting and Mowing Ltd – a specialist mowing and vegetation control business based in Wellington.

Having worked as a farm manager for eight years and then for a local Wellington agricultural contractor, Shawn decided to launch his own business three years ago.

He initially started a mowing service using a Hydra reach mower attached to a New Holland tractor. That was enough to keep him busy, but when he invested in speciality mowing equipment, things really took off.

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The Energreen Robocut can operate on up to 60-degree slopes

The game-changer machine was an Energreen Robocut, allowing Shawn to specialise in vegetation management and eliminating the back-breaking task of clearing difficult vegetation areas such as gorse and grass. Land that was previously difficult to build on, such as steep slopes, became an attractive proposition and amongst other things, opened possibilities for property developers and landowners who wanted to utilise their assets.

Since its early days, Perkins Contracting and Mowing has grown hugely, with clients now including councils and regional councils, lifestyle blocks, large scale farms, and property developers.

No two days are the same and the team is kept busy doing everything from creating walking tracks and roadside tracks to firebreak clearing, along with the more regular tasks of lawn mowing, gorse clearance, weed wiping, native planting preparation, and subdivision clearing.

With undulating terrain around the Wellington area, there’s high demand for the array of services carried out by the Perkins crew. Several councils who required reach mowing, as well as remote control mowing, quickly saw the potential of the capabilities of the mowers and mulchers in Shawn’s fleet.

“When people saw what the machine, with its ability to work on up to 60-degree slopes, was capable of, they were quick to jump onboard, and being remote controlled, there are also huge health and safety benefits,” says Shawn.

While much of Shawn’s work is for councils, he also subcontracts to other contractors as well.  

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Shawn specialises in managing sloped terrain

“Contracting to the likes of Treescape in Wellington, and other similar-sized contractors, can see us helping maintain rail corridors for Kiwi Rail up and down the North Island.

“Then, at the other part of the year, we’re busy with agricultural jobs on lifestyle blocks and large-scale farms. The mowers come in handy there, too.”

Specialist mowing machines

Having had proven success with the Energreen Robocut, last year, Shawn added the Green Climber LV600 to his fleet of hi-tech equipment. Both are tracked machines with a variety of cutting heads and attachments that can be added, depending on the terrain or type of vegetation.

“A major bonus of both machines is their ability to operate on steep slopes via remote control,” says Shawn.

“We began using the tracked scrub cutters on lifestyle blocks, and when councils noticed what we were doing, they quickly jumped onboard. They often need areas replanted with native plants, and it has sped up this process, sometimes by as much as one or two years.

“It’s more viable than spraying with a helicopter, or than getting guys in with scrub bars, only to have to clean-up again a few years later. We can access areas they’ve never been able to do before.

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Shawn Perkins operating his remote controlled mower

“In many council areas, the gorse is 30 to 40 years old and is as big as the size of a tree. We go in and clear areas; it’s then mulched and sprayed before being direct planted.”

Safety first

One of the key motivations for investing in remote control machines was the health and safety aspect.

“Being able to operate the machinery remotely means we can stand anywhere from 20 metres to 150 metres away. On some of the slopes we’re operating on, this definitely makes it much safer.

“Also, we don’t need to sit on the machine, so we can get into terrain and situations where others can’t. On top of that, the machines are actually easy to operate. I can show someone in five minutes how to use it.

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Property maintenance and vegetation clearance are part of the Perkins Contracting and Mowing business

“We can get into places far beyond what any digger or tractor can. The Green Climber LV600 in particular makes it a whole different ball game; you can tackle whatever size material you want. There’s no scrub it can’t do.”

Green Climber

The MDB Green Climber machines are market leaders in many ways, with features such as extendable tracks, side shift mowing head, and a 60-degree slope rating. Made in Italy and backed up by OMC Power Equipment in New Zealand, there is a wide range of accessories available to further increase the versatility offered.

With the ability to use different mowing heads, from fixed tooth mulching heads to a range of flail and hammer mowing heads and even stump grinders and bucket scoops, the Green Climber is the very definition of versatile.

Lifestyle properties

Another side to Perkins Contracting and Mowing is mini bales.

“These are hugely popular with lifestyle block owners,” says Shawn. “Last season we baled around 2500 round bales and sold them all. We’ve now got repeat clients; everyone who bought them wants more this season.

“Over the next two years, we’ll expand that production. Because we’re doing it with our New Holland 35hp tractor, our savings are ridiculous compared to a bigger machine. You can run the whole set-up (tractor and baler) for around a quarter of what a big set-up would cost and only use 20 to 25 litres of diesel a day. While contractors in our region are getting bigger and bigger (200hp+ tractors), we prefer to stay small.”

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Baling is part of the business also with high demand for these small bales

As well as baling, Shawn offers mowing, spraying, hedge trimming, paddock topping, fertiliser spreading, and soil testing for lifestyle blocks as well as larger farms.

“We also offer weed wiping services throughout the Wellington region. Our weed wiper can span up to 4.3-meter wides – ideal for reeds, rushes, thistles, and the like. It’s ideal for any paddock, as it only targets weeds and saves the pasture.”

Family business

Shawn and his partner Sarah Powell, who does all the business administration for Perkins Contracting and Mowing, own a two-acre lifestyle block in Upper Hutt. They also lease a further 100 acres, which they run as a sheep and beef block and utilise the grass for mini bales.

Shawn grew up in Whiteman’s Valley on the eastern side of Upper Hutt, helping local dairy farmers while attending Taratahi Ag Training Centre in Masterton. This helped him acquire his national agricultural certificates in sheep and beef and opened his eyes to the science of farming practices, which he utilises in his daily business from soil testing to understanding the biology of the soil.

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Spectacular scenery is a bonus of some jobs

Much of Shawn’s work comes from the Wellington area he’s well acquainted with.

Rural Contractors New Zealand

Shawn belongs to RCNZ and says the regular news updates he receives are helpful, especially over the lockdowns.

“I usually have a good read of the latest news, and if I have a question about anything, they have proven to be very helpful.”

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