Isaac Johnston wants more young people to consider fencing as a career option.

Johnston, a member of the West Otago Young Farmers took out a national fencing competition in Christchurch, along with Luke Kane.

Kane, 30 (also a West Otago YF member), and Johnston, 25, won the PGG Wrightson Fencing Competition, which was held as part of the AGMARDT NZ Young Farmers Conference.

Johnston has worked as a fencer since 2014 and is stoked with the win.


"My first job was for Geoff Rogers at Kirwee-based High Country Fencing, so I was weary of being asked to dig holes in that area," he laughed.

"The ground isn't that stony, but it's very, very hard."

Isaac Johnston digs a post hole. Photo / Supplied
Isaac Johnston digs a post hole. Photo / Supplied

The pair faced tough competition, with Lachlan Fee and Sean Taylor from the Taranaki/ Manawatū region first to finish.

"Looking across to see that gave us the kick up the bum we needed to work a bit faster," he said.

"But it always pays take a few extra minutes to ensure your fence is perfect before calling time. Every point counts."

It's Johnston's second time competing in the national final.

"I love getting out there and competing with mates. It is great fun and it's an excellent way to improve my fencing skills," he said.

Johnston moved to Tapanui in June last year, taking over the lease of his grandfather's 80 hectare farm.

"It's a glorified lifestyle block," he laughed. "But I've always had a passion for the farm and the area."


Johnston runs 600 breeding ewes, 350 replacement ewe lambs, and grazes a few cattle on the property.

He recently completed an agribusiness diploma through PrimaryITO and runs his own fencing contracting business.

Johnston has a couple of theories about New Zealand's shortage of fencers.

"There's a lot of pressure on young people to go to university and get degrees. The schooling system ignores the trades," he said.

"It doesn't help that fencing is not considered a professional industry in the way that being a builder or electrician is."

The Fencing Contractors' Association NZ is attempting to address the problem with a new national qualification.


The New Zealand Certificate in Fencing is being run by Northland-based NorthTec.

It launched in Hamilton last year and will expand to include Christchurch in April.

"I've been a fencer for five years and I'm eager to obtain the qualification," he said.

"But I can't work and travel all the way to Christchurch half a dozen times to attend my nearest course."

"It's hard for NorthTec to justify holding courses in more regions because so few young people are entering the industry," he said.

Johnston finds fencing rewarding and he urges other young people to consider it as a career option.