A short timeframe with an outstanding result
Willie and Sue Macdonald
Willie and Sue Macdonald own Middlehurst Station, a 17,000 hectare merino sheep and beef farm in rural Marlborough. They were initially unsure if FarmBuild could take on their desired project because their station was so far away from Christchurch – four hours door to door – but as soon as the team arrived for the first consultation, the Macdonalds knew they’d made the right decision.
“When Pat and Colin got out of their truck, I knew they were the right guys for the job,” says Willie. “It was already clear as soon as we met them that they understood farming.”
The Macdonalds wanted a six-stand woolshed for their remote station, and the FarmBuild team looked over the site and Middlehurst’s existing shed, then brought forth some ideas. “What we decided on was a mix of a pre-existing design and internal fit-out, as per FarmBuild’s specs, with a dimension of the design done by us,” says Willie. “It was a combination of what we wanted, and their historic experience.”
Patrick and Colin outlined a relatively short timeframe for completion of the building – five months. “I was seriously cautious that the timeframe was too short – the deadline was 20th September 2015, as to when we started shearing,” Willie explains. “I was happy to put the project off for another six months to be ready for the following season… but Pat assured me we could do it.”
Delivering the woodshed on time and to budget, FarmBuild’s organisation was top notch, the Macdonalds say. “I give them 10 out of 10 for serious organisational skills,” says Willie. “We’ve done other jobs and used other contractors, and these guys were the most organised people we’ve ever used. They lead the charge with their plans and their engineer and were committed the whole way through.”
The final product, a steel and timber six-stand woolshed, has exceeded the Macdonalds’ expectations. “It’s not just a woolshed, it’s a beautiful building,” Willie says. “The key thing is, it’s absolutely functional. With some woolsheds, the sheep just don’t flow in, but because of FarmBuild’s knowledge of stock flow and handling, this is outstanding.”
From initial consultation to final handover, the process of working with the FarmBuild team was more hands-on and personal than the Macdonalds could have wished for. “They’re just a very credible, reliable bunch of guys,” Willie says. “They arrived as strangers, but they left as friends.”
A historic country connection
Stonyhurst Station, an historic farming station near Cheviot in the Hurunui District, was founded in 1851 and has a long family legacy attached to it. FarmBuild has been working with the station since 1981, when Bruce Gregg ran the company and his son Colin was an apprentice.
“Bruce and Colin were the only people in the business back then,” says Peter and Johnny Douglas-Clifford, Stonyhurst’s owners. “They came in and built us a big new woolshed to go alongside a 100-year old shed. We liked their design, we liked how much they understood farming.”
A fire destroyed both sheds a decade later and Colin and Bruce were back quickly with a similar design, incorporating steel grating and Oregon trees from the property. “This was a first for FarmBuild sheds,” Douglas-Clifford says.
Stonyhurst Station sits on approximately 3000 hectares of land, and over the years, FarmBuild has developed numerous other projects for the site, including Peter and Fiona Douglas-Clifford’s own homestead.
All concrete for the Stonyhurst homestead was made on-site, and as much timber as possible was sourced from the station itself. The building has many of the typical design features of any great country homestead – including rimu doors and trim, and a granite kitchen with diesel AGA (which both cooks and heats the house) – and it runs mostly on windmill power with all facilities on-site.
Colin Gregg says one of the most rewarding parts of his apprenticeship was working on this station. “This is the only project where we have gone to the forest and picked out 80-year-old timber, cut it down, milled it, and by that afternoon have nailed it up into frames on site,” he says. “That was a very satisfying accomplishment.”
Another notable FarmBuild project at Stonyhurst was a new six-stand woolshed, where yet again all concrete was made on the premises, and all timber milled off the station grounds. “There’s a lot of history and heritage at Stonyhurst, it’s over 150 years old,” Douglas-Clifford says. “We like to do things in certain ways, and FarmBuild is good at understanding what we want to achieve – not just for our generation, but the next generation.
“Over the years, they’ve become really connected with the place. They know what we’ve done in the past, and they’re keen on seeing us into the future because they understand the farming lifestyle and what’s required.”