Beyond the Pale

Lee Brothers Fencing Group

This Victorian fencing specialist company has been supplying commercial fencing and related equipment throughout the state for more than 60 years and, as Director Andrew Lee told us, “If it is related to fencing, gates or access to property, we do it.”

A family business when it started in 1948 and remaining privately owned, Lee Brothers is heavily involved in infrastructure work. “We go after any prominent jobs in the state. A few years ago there was a focus on railway sidings and we were engaged on just about every siding in Melbourne when they ordered new trains. That was a security mesh. We did the desalination plant, and the Peninsular Link road extension that required 20 kilometres of chain wire.” That three-year project finished at the end of 2012 and was, for the time being, the last major roads project in the state. Lee Brothers is also pitching for a slice of the $4.5 billion dollar railways revitalisation project currently in preparation – the biggest rail project in Victoria.

In fact, Lee Brothers turns out to be two companies rather than one, with a separate division looking after temporary fencing. Victorian Temporary Fencing was established in 1996, also owned by Andrew and his brother, and provides temporary fencing solutions for any pool, event, construction or site need. This side of the business is, says Andrew, “extremely competitive at present,” with more than a hundred companies in Melbourne alone claiming to supply products. However, he sounds a warning based on his own experience and observation: hardly ten per cent of those ‘suppliers’ actually have “a product that meets the Australian Standard.” The remainder are just erectors and stockists, short on public liability and quality assurance. He even suggests that it’s more the companies than their fencing that are ‘temporary’.

In a difficult economic climate, he argues, it is tempting for even reputable companies to take a look at the cut-price offers from such operators and many do, often regretting the experience after something goes wrong. Smaller companies (and a lot of temporary fencing is used in the domestic sphere where councils require it to restrain rubbish on building sites and stop it spreading on new estates) are often very indiscriminate in their buying, in the mistaken belief that temporary fencing is just a commodity to be bought at the cheapest price. “Everyone has a different size of mesh or pipe, so the requirements are performance based,” explains Andrew – meaning a fence has to be able to keep a set of objects in or out – “and if you read the standard, although not many do, it says staff need to be trained properly in installing the fencing. Every site is different.”

Enforcement is unfortunately lax, suggests Andrew, who is heavily involved in both the Australian Wire Industry Association, the body that oversees chain link fencing production and supply, and the Temporary Fence Association of Australia. “We try to promote use of a fencing company within the Association, whose products have to meet the Australian Standard. We won’t let them be members if they don’t.”

But in light of a lack of enforcement by authorities, it remains too tempting for many companies, who can simply buy cheap fencing panels from China with little or no supervision. Quality is more important than many people realise because fencing panels are not exactly treated with great respect on site and when they are returned after hire they can be subject to extra charges. “No one has any respect for temporary fencing,” says Andrew. “If someone hires a generator and breaks it they know they will get charged for it. But if they drive a truck across a temporary fence panel and damage it, too often they think that is my problem.”

Victorian Temporary Fencing has supplied temporary fencing for various football clubs for the seasons’ finals, supplying fencing to the Western Region Juniors, Northern Football League Juniors and the Western Region Football League Juniors. At these events the industrial style event fencing was used around the grounds as security boundary fencing. Victorian Temporary Fencing was also the first on the job for the development of Hume City Council’s Craigieburn Town Centre. The development required 2,250 metres of exterior chain mesh temporary fencing panels to secure the perimeter for building to commence on the 65 hectare site. The Town Centre will become a hub for entertainment, shopping and outdoor public spaces, and completion of this project is expected prior to Christmas 2013.

The company has taken advantage of the relatively quiet segment to put a lot of investment into the future with “a massive amount of changes to turn it into a much better business when things turn round” and take advantage of its leading position.

Andrew paints a rather brighter picture of the situation across at Lee Brothers Fencing itself. “This has been quite a good year for us because we have won some good projects. We get involved in anything related to infrastructure or construction. So for example on a multi-storey building project, we will start with a builder’s hoarding and continue to storage cages, following through the project with accessories such as bollards. We can handle all the external fencing and handrail work – anything but metalwork as such which is something our business is often confused with.” A piece of piping that is galvanised can be called fencing or metalwork, and both sectors tend to try to claim it. “We also do acoustic fencing, including work on freeways, mostly small to medium acoustic fences between private residences on an estate and a VicRoads project,” says Andrew. Much of the work in this sector comes from private developers, working with acoustic consultants and the engineers to sort an optimum solution to any particular noise problem.

A typical rail project was the company’s South Morang Rail Extension, a premium station, built to improve access to public transport services for Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Lee Brothers installed more than six kilometres of fencing at the site, including chain link fencing, timber farm fencing, weldmesh fencing, customised garden mesh panels, Monowill hand rail, anti-dig concrete barrier and security 358 mesh.

The Wonthaggi Desalination Plant has an unusual ‘feature’ fence, custom-designed: 70 metres of feature fencing with a distinctive wave running through it. This effect was achieved through the production and installation of 125x75mm unequal angle fins and the project also included the installation of a pair of 13.5 metre cantilever gates.

Security fencing is something of a Lee Brothers speciality. The company can provide tailored security solutions for clients, such as when working on the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (which used to be known as the Deer Park Metropolitan Women’s Correctional Centre), a maximum security women’s prison where Lee Brothers ensured the high security fence perimeter would meet the anti-climb, anti-dig and anti-ram requirements. The Ductor fence installed at the prison is the most recent addition to the company’s Defcon high security range of fences. It is a double sided five metre high solid wall Colorbond fence which features an anti-climb galvanised Duraduct drum on top of the fence. Ductor combines strength in design, height, anti-climb, anti-scale and is also a platform for multiple electronic surveillance and security accessories.

Ductor includes an underground anti-dig component and can be engineered to suit all applications. The construction included anti-dig concrete plinths which had to be installed under the surface of the ground and required rock drilling in order to achieve this. For this project, Lee Brothers was engaged to design and construct. “We re-engineered it, re-drew it, redesigned it within the client’s scope, and provided all the engineering certification,” Andrew explains. The project was in two halves, each taking around a year and including a number of other security-related areas such as lighting.

The company is not often invited to do design-and-construct projects as “not many people listen to outside opinions on fencing.” However, says Andrew, with more than 60 years of expertise, it might just be a good idea to consult him and his team – just to be on the safe side of the fence.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

May 29, 2020, 4:11 PM AEST