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Happiest in the hills

For Louise Wilson, getting outdoors and onto the fence line is her happy place.

Originally from Scotland, Louise and her fiancé, Neil, own MacDonald Rural Contracting based in Seddon, Marlborough. Louise emigrated to Australia in 2012 before moving to New Zealand in 2016 where Neil was living.

Her first foray into the fencing business started with doing the bookwork for the business before she eventually picked up the tools on the fence line. 

“(I) started going out to help on the line when they needed an extra pair of hands – I have driven tractors for a long time too, so it was relatively easy for me to go out and drive posts when they needed help.”

She then left her job in agriculture and started fencing full time. However, in July 2022, the couple took advantage of an opportunity and purchased the local rural delivery run, which brought her back off the fenceline.

“We decided … it was important to diversify a little with the way the cost of living was rising. It was important to have a backup in case the fencing work slowed, but luckily it hasn’t, we have more work than ever. (So) now I’m back to just doing the bookwork alongside my day job.”

For Louise, the best thing about fencing is getting to work outdoors. “We do a lot of hill country work and the views are often incredible.” She particularly enjoys driving the posts.

“I really enjoy operating the tractor, and there’s a great deal of satisfaction that comes with putting up a nice straight line of posts.

“I also love working in the hills, it’s my ‘happy place’.” She admits there are some days the punishing Marlborough wind can make the job challenging.

“Walking along a ridge putting on insulators whilst getting pushed sideways by a freezing southerly wind can make you wish you were anywhere else.”

The physical work could also be a challenge, she said. “You definitely get fit in this job, but it’s still hard physical work. Wire coils, posts, Waratah drivers …  they’re all heavy, so you need to learn how to use your body correctly to lift and carry things without causing injury over the long term.”

It was also important to “fuel your body” throughout the day with good healthy food and water to keep energy levels up.

Although busy with the mail run and bookwork, Louise looks forward to getting back on the fenceline full time one day. “I miss working outdoors immensely.”

Her advice to any women that would like to give fencing a go is to “just go for it.” “There’re contractors everywhere desperate for good staff, so make contact and go from there.

“As long as you are reliable, turn up on time and try your hardest, then everything else can be learnt. Also don’t give up quickly – practice! Get some wire and sit at home doing tie offs and knots until it becomes second nature.”

Louise would love to see the industry introduce fencing workshops for women to encourage them into the field.

“Whether they are already in the industry and want to expand their knowledge, or are keen to start but a bit nervous about having no experience. Being able to attend and pick up a few basic skills might give them the boost to approach an employer and start their new career.”  

Written by Rosa Watson