Special feature: Renner Fencing Contractors

The ability to diversify as the fencing market changes has stood the Renner family in good stead over the past 40 years

Brad, Terry, and Mike on a fence line in the West Coast

Mike Renner and his brother Brad run the Marlborough fencing business that has kept their family on the land since the 1980s, with some exciting growth on the horizon into the residential and security fencing areas.

Mike’s father Terry fenced and shore sheep while his family was young, taking on a shearing run that his sons worked on as they got older. But with sheep numbers declining and local vineyards on the rise, the family sold the shearing run and established a fencing business in 1999.

“We took redundancy money and became equal partners, buying a tractor and a post driver,” Mike says. “It was then that the business as it stands today was born.”

For a few years, the Renners worked mainly in the rural high country, constructing cattle and sheep yards.

Then they took the opportunity to tap into vineyard development as the viticulture industry picked up rapidly in the Marlborough region.

“We started by driving strainer posts in, before moving on to doing intermediate posts and stays as well,” Mike says. Mike went overseas for a few years, living in Scotland and picking up skills in residential fencing that he brought home.

On his return, the opportunity for the business to tap into the security fencing market arose. A local business that held the security fencing market was up for sale, but instead, the Renners asked Paul Fitzsimmons of Christchurch’s KC Fence Systems to train them in security fence construction.

Concertina razor wire, three rows wide enclosed with waratah rabbit netting

“Currently, our work is divided into 30% security, 25% rural, and 20% residential/lifestyle,” he says. “The rest is made up of vineyard development, which is demanding for four months of the year, from September to December.”

Mike says the business has grown from Terry, Brad, and himself to 11 fencers, Mike’s wife Olivia, and the four casual staff that are employed in vineyard season.

The equipment they use is efficient and simple: two Tague post drivers and two Revolution post drivers, and this season, they purchased their fourth tractor.

“Normally we trade one tractor in for a new one, but this year with the extra vineyard work we took an extra one on,” Mike says.

“We’ve also just bought a 1.8-tonne digger on a trailer, which is amazing for residential and security work.”

While they are undertaking vineyard development, Renner Fencing teams up with local contractor Hamish Blakewell
of HBC Contracting, who supplies a digger and a man.

“It allows us to share resources,” Mike says. “We supply men on the ground for the intermediate posts, and they help with the stays.”

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Renner Fencing has some sizeable jobs under its belt, including the Blenheim Airport security fence.

“We started around a year ago, and we still have around four to five months to go,” Mike says.

“We’re also experiencing another record year for viticulture bookings.”

Mike is involved in the wider fencing industry, having been on the Board of FCANZ for two years.

“I had to stand down to focus on the business when it took off,” he says, “but I’m still involved at the committee level, and I’m helping to create Level 3 and 4 certifications for residential and security fencing; currently, there’s nothing in place.

“Once the basics are in place, I will hand that on to someone else at FCANZ.”

Mike and Terry recently attended the FCANZ annual conference, making it a point to try and attend the event year year.

White interlock post and rail fencing and heritage gates

“You make good friends through FCANZ,” he says. “It’s great for tapping into outside areas for knowledge and support and not just in technical terms of how to do something or trying a new fence design.”

FCANZ was there for its members during COVID lockdown, using the time to help encourage, support, and educate.

“When COVID hit, we thought, what can we do to help members,” Mike says. “So, we hosted a number of webinars that covered topics such as working out charge out rates, Terms of Trade, Health and Safety, environmental considerations, and other topics.

“We’ve had a business mentor for the past four to five years, which has helped hugely, and we’re now operating the business at a good profit.”

The fencing industry has the same challenges as other trades in that work is plentiful but good staff is hard to find.

However, Renner Fencing has used the GATEWAY programme, which provides long-term, structured workplace learning for senior high school students. It’s designed to support students› transition into the workplace by offering them workplace opportunities while still attending school.

“GATEWAY is a great programme that we have found successful,” Mike says. “We have had one guy who went through the programme and is now with us full-time. Alternatively, we use school or university students for vineyard development.

“Using these pathways, there are boys and girls coming into the industry thick and fast. Kids want to be out in the world.”

Mike with a newly purchased Toyota HiAce van for one of the Security and Residential crews

Mike says a challenge facing the fencing industry is the ever-changing rural Health and Safety regulations. “The days of just turning up at a site and doing your job are gone,” he says. “There are a lot of checklists and paperwork to complete before you can even start. The common sense is gone.”

As for the rewards of the industry, there are plenty, but Mike says the benefits include the people you meet and the “magnificent office”, especially when out and about in rural areas.

“It changes every day,” he says. 

Find new and used farm machinery for sale in NZ 

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