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Protecting our precious places

Forest covenant fencing

By Philip Lissaman

Fencing a covenant is a high capital investment for both the covenantor and QEII. As well as ensuring a fence is carefully planned and placed, it is essential the fencing is cost-effective.

Much has been said, but little written, about the best way to protect covenant areas from livestock entry. With an increasing number of covenants owned by people with little farming experience, this is an attempt to get ideas down for others to consider or try.

This article is the first in a series discussing the best and most economical ways to fence covenant areas.

QEII Trust has two key principles for fencing of forest remnants and other protected vegetation.

First principle

The fence must secure the covenant area from livestock intrusion. This is essential to allow natural regeneration and prevent browsing, trampling, pugging or weed introduction.

While some may argue that there is regeneration in their 'grazed forest', careful investigation will show the lack of diversity, particularly palatable species that are preferred by livestock.

Photos below: Two examples of ineffective fencing in need of repair.

Fence in need of repair

Second fence in need of repair

Photos below: Two examples of diverse regeneration behind a good quality stock-proof fence.

Stock proof fence example

Second stock proof fence example

Second principle

The preferred fence type is the norm for the farm and one which the owner is willing to maintain (as required by the covenant document). QEII Trust doesn't impose fences that are not wanted by landowners.

A favourite forest fence: 7-wire and post

This is the most commonly used fence for securing a forest remnant from sheep and cattle. It would consist of 7 (maybe 8) 12½ gauge wires; top wire at 1150mm; and 1.8m x 100-125mm tanalised wooden posts (round or half round) with 4-5m spacing between them.

Post and batten fence

Photo below: As the forest matures, a battened fence can become harder to maintain if branches or trees fall over it.

Second post and batten fence

Points to note:

  • The wires should be on the outside (animals' side) of the posts and must be strained to prevent stock pushing through or over.
  • An electric outrigger and/or barbed top wire can be a valuable addition to deter stock from pressuring a fence by reaching through or over.
  • Battens are an optional extra preferred by most landowners, especially in the North Island.
  • However, around forest blocks battens can be a nuisance when branches or trees start falling (naturally) as the forest matures: re-straining a fully battened and stretched fence can be a nightmare.

Open SpaceTM Magazine No. 50, December 2000 © QEII National Trust

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