Fencing at schools

Information and advice for installing and designing fences on school grounds.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Boards
  • Proprietors
  • Building Contractors
  • Product Providers
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Project Managers
  • Property Managers

Boards can install fences for security at their schools. Fencing may also be a solution when students with special needs are at risk of running away from school, based on a Serious Risk Assessment.

Installing fences

Fences may discourage potential intruders during and after school hours. If you are planning to install a fence, consider the views of people in your community. Some people prefer open access to a school. Others welcome fencing as a sign of care and control.

Legal rights when building or replacing a boundary fence

When planning to build or replace a boundary fence, you need to be aware of the rights and responsibilities of your school and your neighbours.

You and the neighbour sharing the fence line must share the cost of boundary fencing. This cost is based on a simple 1.8 metre high wooden paling fence.

Before building the fence, contact your neighbour and formally advise them of your intentions and their responsibilities. Your notice, or written proposal, must:

  • state that the notice is served under the Fencing Act 1978
  • give the names and addresses of both you and your neighbour
  • describe the fence, where it will go and how it will be built
  • give an estimate of costs and how you will buy the materials
  • state the start date of the work.

Your neighbour has 21 days to object to any aspect of the proposal.

For more information, go to the Fencing Act 1978 (New Zealand Legislation website)(external link).

Choosing a fence design

When planning the fence design, we recommend:

  • a robust and long-lasting tube or palisade-style fence
  • 75 by 75mm steel posts (50 by 50mm is not strong enough)
  • steel tube, which is stronger than rod.

Find out what is included in any price you get for fencing such as:

  • mowing strips
  • post size
  • the finish, for example if it is galvanised.

You may use electric fencing for security reasons, such as along the top of a building, when other fencing solutions are not appropriate. Electric fences must be specifically designed for security purposes and professionally designed, built and installed.

Designing fencing with low visual impact

To reduce the visual impact of your security fencing:

  • give the fence a dark powder-coat – light-coloured fences, such as unpainted galvanised steel, tend to stand out from their backgrounds
  • select a well-finished look that is not hazardous – cut-steel arrow-heads are not suitable
  • decorate the fence with artwork.

Do not use hazardous fencing

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link), you must not have fencing that may harm people, even when trespassing. A hazardous fence has:

  • cut-steel ‘arrow-heads’, sometimes called ‘spear-heads’
  • single- and triple-pointed palisades, or a rod or tube cut on an angle to form a point – features normally associated with cheaper fences
  • other deterrent features that could potentially harm people.

Hazardous fences do not stop people from trying to climb over them. Every year several children are injured from trying to climb them. These injuries can be serious and life threatening.

If your school has a hazardous fence, you should:

  • have it altered so it is no longer hazardous, for example, replace cut-steel arrow-heads with rounded palisade tops
  • isolate it, or
  • replace it.

Fencing for students with special education needs

Sometimes students with special education needs are at risk of running away from school, and you may need to think about fencing. If you think a student is at risk, the first step is to get a Serious Risk Assessment done. This must be done by a Special Education Behaviour Practitioner, through the Ministry of Education. Contact your property advisor for advice.

The practitioner will do an assessment and write a report. They will discuss any recommendations with you and the Ministry advisors dealing with your school. Some things to think about are as follows.

  • Fencing may not be the best or the only option.
  • Safety of the students is the most important thing to consider.
  • The school, the family and the wider team are responsible for managing the risk.

Give students every chance to learn to stay in the school grounds. We will consider funding for fencing only after looking at all other solutions.

What the Serious Risk Assessment might recommend

The assessment will identify the risk and make a recommendation based on that risk. There could be 4 outcomes.

  1. Serious risk: will recommend immediate fencing and the development of a safety and behaviour management plan.
  2. Medium risk: will recommend that a safety and behaviour management plan be developed with Special Education staff to review the need for fencing in the first 12 months of the student going to school.
  3. Low risk: will not recommend fencing but may recommend that a safety and behaviour management plan be developed.
  4. No risk: will not recommend any action.

Paying for fencing for students with special education needs

If the practitioner recommends fencing, they will include it in the Property Modification Report.

The fence will be funded through special education property modification funding.

You need to contribute to the cost if:

  • the fence was scheduled to be replaced in your 10 Year Property Plan
  • the fence was going to be put up anyway (before the assessment was done).

If either of these are the case, we will meet the cost of any special features in the fence. 

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