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Debbie Robertson

Fencetec (2015) Ltd

Debbie Robertson has been fencing since she was 19, helping her dad on their home farm in Taupō and fencing for many years alongside her husband, Neil. Their Waikato-based business Fensin Ltd has been operating for over 40 years with the overarching aim of giving back to the rural community.

After Debbie suffered a workplace injury, requiring bolts in the back of her leg, she wanted a change from fencing and decided to study health and safety psychology. “It made me understand human behaviour, that’s why I can confidently say that 96% of accidents are based on human error,” Debbie said. After studying, Debbie formed her company Rural Safe Ltd. She joined Pāmu (Landcorp Farming) nearly five years ago where her role is to go on farm and talk to staff about health, safety and well-being. Debbie looks at work as it is rather than imagined, giving assurance and sharing good ideas to ensure workers are safe. In the last three years, Debbie mentioned that the New Zealand rural community lost eight to 20 people per year in farming-related fatalities.

“We’ve got to do safety in fencing, it’s a given. Otherwise, we’re going to see fatalities. If we can just stop one guy from putting his thumb underneath a post rammer, by having that conversation, then we’ve won. Agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries. You’ve got to continue to talk about it and slow down, tomorrow is another day,” Debbie said.

Along with her work commitments, Debbie is also a bronze partner with the Fencing Contractors Association New Zealand (FCANZ), helping to organise and plan events. Debbie and Neil also help out with different projects such as Growing Future Farmers and have taught prisoners and school groups how to fence. “It was a natural progression for us to give back to the fencing community because we’ve fenced for so long.”

Education and communication are two of Debbie’s main drivers and when work situations do get a little bit overwhelming, Debbie balances her well-being by talking it through with her husband. “Going fast doesn’t make you a good fencer, what makes you a good fencer is technique,” Debbie concluded.