By Simon Burt

Short practical courses in subjects such as quad bike riding, fence repair and chainsaw safety are becoming increasingly popular at Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre’s Wairarapa campus located in northern Carterton.

Senior Tutor Brendan Cunningham says that with the increasing rural population in the district there’s an awareness of the need to upskill in these important farm activities.

“There seems to be a lot of city people moving into countryside here,” Brendan says. “They are realising that learning how to operate unfamiliar farm machinery safely is very important.”

With this in mind, the short courses are usually scheduled for weekends and evenings and have been attended by a range of people including lifestylers, Council employees and new farm workers.

The chainsaw workshop is based heavily on the practical. A maximum of eight attendees learn the basics of how to use a chainsaw, with a  firm emphasis on safety. Everyone gets their own saw to use for the day and they access the teaching area on the farm by quad bike. Participants are taught how to start the saw, sharpen and oil the chain and how to identify hazards. Equipment such as earmuffs, hard hat and chaps are discussed and used.

“There’s even a bit of numeracy involved when working out fuel ratios and some physics with the different angled cuts and reactive forces,” says Brendan Cunningham. “We’re looking to encourage the general public who might use chainsaws casually,” he says. There is no assessment but a participation certificate is issued at the end of the day.

The fence repair workshops concentrate on wire types and their qualities and applications, the various knots used, transport, storage and the use of strainers. The Quads & LUVs course takes participants on the differing terrains they might encounter as well as discussing towing trailers and securing loads. Tutors for both subjects emphasise the all important health and safety aspects of these potentially hazardous farm activities.

Taratahi’s short course workshops also include cheesemaking and pig husbandry and, with the ongoing nationwide increase in honey production, the Apiculture Certificate courses are becoming very busy.

Now in its third year at the Wairarapa campus, the beekeeping course’s growing popularity follows the establishment of several ‘big name’ producers in the district and the subsequent growth in commercial suppliers. There has also been an upturn in the number of hobbyists, who make up a good part of the 2017 group according to Taratahi Wairarapa’s Apiculture and Student Support person Julie Adam, herself an experienced beekeeper.



The one-day practical sessions are run fortnightly on Saturdays over 36 weeks, working towards a NZ Certificate in Apiculture. Participants learn how to construct and repair beehives, the seasonal management of bees and hives, re-queening hives, identification and treatment of diseases, shifting beehives and honey extraction. Between sessions there are assignments and projects to be completed.

A component of the course fee provides the materials required to build a hive, which the participants do over the duration of the programme. The  finished product is theirs to keep – bees not included, but plenty of help is available when it comes time to populate the hive.

The Wairarapa tutor is Paul Dandy, a commercial beekeeper, farmer and vet. “Paul is also an experienced and qualified tutor,” Julie Adam says. “He is a great resource and has been very successful in working to the students’ different interest areas.”

Taratahi has been preparing young people for agricultural careers since 1919. As well as the residential training centre and head office in Wairarapa there are non-residential campuses in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay and Southland. full-time tuition and an Agriculture in Schools programme.