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Landscaper

Kaihoahoa Whakapaipai Whenua

Alternative titles for this job

Landscapers design, develop, maintain and remodel gardens and landscapes.

Pay

Landscapers in training usually earn

$18-$23 per hour

Landscapers in managerial positions usually earn

$28-$40 per hour

Source: Registered Master Landscapers New Zealand, 2018.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a landscaper are average due to reasonably stable demand for people in the role.

Pay

Pay for landscapers varies depending on experience, qualifications and where in New Zealand they work – in Auckland they can earn up to $4 an hour more.

  • Landscapers with no qualifications or in training can expect to earn between minimum wage and $23 an hour. 
  • With four years experience or more, landscapers usually earn between $24 and $28 an hour.
  • Experienced landscapers with extra responsibilities, in managerial positions or who run their own business can earn between $28 and $40 an hour.

Many landscapers are self-employed and how much they earn can depend on the success of their business.

Source: Registered Master Landscapers New Zealand, 2018. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Landscapers may do some or all of the following:

  • discuss and develop designs with clients
  • read and interpret plans and discuss design concepts with landscape architects
  • do basic planning and design work, and planting plans
  • calculate construction costs such as labour and materials
  • select seeds, bulbs and plants and plant these
  • construct decking, fencing, walls and courtyards, and lay down paving
  • install garden lighting, irrigation and ornaments.

Skills and knowledge

Landscapers need to have knowledge of:

  • different plants and their required growing conditions
  • how to interpret and follow plans and drawings
  • construction methods and materials
  • design regulations, permits and plans
  • tiling and bricklaying.

Business skills are useful for landscapers who run their own business.

Working conditions

Landscapers:

  • usually work regular business hours, but often work weekends
  • spend most of their time in gardens and construction sites
  • work in most weather conditions and in conditions that can be muddy
  • may have to travel locally or further away for jobs.

What's the job really like?

Brent Cations

Brent Cations

Landscaper

Between rugby and his job as a landscaper, Brent Cations spends much of the winter in mud. Though he doesn't mind this, he says summer is his preferred season. "In the summer, it's a brilliant job. A lot of people spend their weekends trying to get a tan, but for us guys, we're out in the sun all the time."

After eight years of landscaping for a small business, Brent decided to try and get a job with a large, well-established company. He was uncertain of his chances, because he'd left school at the end of Fifth Form [Year 11] and had no formal qualifications.

"In the interview I was a wee bit worried because they did ask me, 'Have you got anything to show for it as far as study?' and I said 'No, I don't'." But his extensive portfolio and willingness to start an apprenticeship got him the job. "I was very, very stoked, to be honest."

Brent is now looking forward to getting stuck into the rest of his study. "I didn't want to be 40 years old and have nothing to show for a lot of the work I've done. To have that qualification behind me is going to be excellent."

Ashley finds out what it's like to be a landscaper – 6.34 mins. (Video courtesy of the New Zealand Horticulture Industry Training Organisation).

Ashley: My name’s Ashley. I’m a 16-year-old student at Lincoln High School in Christchurch. I’m interested in landscaping as a career as I’m interested in the physical side of the job, and putting my touch on the environment.

Clinton: Ashley will have plenty of opportunities to work his muscles today. Adam Pollard of Morgan Pollard Landscaping has a wealth of experience to offer Ashley and will give him some on-the-job training.

Adam: We really look for people who like the outdoors, that are physically fit and they’re really keen to get out there and do a bit of work.

Adam: Morning Ashley! How are you? You’ll be doing a whole lot of different things today – have you had any experience in landscaping?

Ashley: Limited, but I have quite a passion for the industry.

Adam: Excellent! Well we’ve got a lot to get on to to day, so lets get under way.

Ashley: Awesome.

Adam: It can be quite a hard, physical job, but it’s also really rewarding. We really look for someone that’s really keen more than anything else, and really wants to learn.

Adam: Well Ashley, we’re here at this rest home. A big part of our job is actually getting and reading plans, and putting on the ground what the designers do for us. Today we’re going to try and pour some concrete through here. We can get on and do it.

Ashley: Awesome.

Adam: We're trying to protect the paving, so we just lay that out like that and roll it all the way through, and that will just sit down there, and as we go along we'll put some pegs down.

Clinton: The paving contractor shows Ashley how to screed the cement.

Adam: In our industry, landscape across the board, they have to learn everything. Learn from carpentry, to plumbing, to plastering, to tiling, paving, soft landscaping – in the sense of doing lawns, lawn preparation and sowing or re-lawn, planting, plant layout, a wee bit of design. It covers a lot of different trades and while they may not be proficient at everything all the time, they'll get to do a whole lot of different things.

Ashley: It’s been good. We’ve barrowed some concrete, the barrows had a bit of weight in them. We used some screed boards to flatten it out, there’s a fine art to the screed boarding. I found that I was getting the art of it going all right.

Clinton: Having completed a number of tasks successfully, it’s now time to move on to the next job.

Adam: All right Ashley, we’re up here, we’re going to be planting some agapanthus along the front of here. Now, the first thing we're going to need to do is measure up how many metres we’ve got and divide up how many agapanthus we need per metre, and then we can get on and plant them.

Adam: Just basically measure all the way around. Stop on either side of the steps obviously, and up to the other end where we stopped before. Then yell out the measurement.

Ashley: Forty-three.

Adam: Forty-three metres. What we’re going to be doing is grabbing the wee agapanthus and we’re basically going to get it in halfway between the hebe and the lawn edge, will be an agapanthus. So what we’ll do first is go through and set them all out, and then basically 350 millimetres from the centre of that one to the centre of the next one, will be the next plant. OK?

Adam: A big part of landscaping is planting obviously, and setting out and knowing what plants go where and why they go there. Every job is different, every job has specific needs, whether it be the client, or it’s position and sun and shade and wind and so forth. A first-year apprentice kind of starts off doing what you’re doing now, doing a bit of planting – planting by numbers I call it – where you get a plan and you set them out as per the plan and during that process you learn a lot about the different types of plants and as you get better with plants you can create some quite funky, different landscapes with them.

Clinton: So what are the benefits of choosing to embark on an apprenticeship?

Adam: Well I suppose it’s learning on the job, you get the whole wide range of different jobs, you’re learning practically how to do things. You learn from a lot of people with a lot of experience, not just out of a textbook. You get the technical side of through theory, as well as the practical side on the job.

Clinton: Tom Kelly has almost completed his first year of his National Certificate in Horticulture.

Ashley: So what drew you into the industry Tom?

Tom: Well I wanted to be outside, outdoors you know.

Ashley: So are you finding the physical side of the job very hard?

Tom: Yeah, well it’s pretty good because when you’re working you’re also working out as well. It’s pretty tough on the body, but you sort of get used to it.

Clinton: Not only is the apprentice's progress monitored by his employer, but through visits by the Horticultural Industry Training Organisation regional manager.

Manager: How are you doing Tom? Now we’re just doing a bit of a quarterly visit with you guys.

Adam: Tom has been basically doing most of the stuff that’s in there – we’ve been keeping an eye on him through the unit, and you’re feeling pretty confident that you’ve done well through that part of it anyway.

Manager: Well, every three months I catch up with the apprentices in the workplace, it's just a mentoring process. If there’s any problems with the employer or the apprentice they can air them then. And we can sort anything out from there on in.

Adam: Rightio Ashley, we’re on a lawn laying job today and we’ve got the rotary hoe. Basically what you’re going to do is go through and rotary hoe up and down here, and we’re going to just break the soil pan up a bit.

Clinton: The next step is to compact the soil.

Adam: You do look like an idiot when you’re doing it though!

Adam: It’s a great career, it's hard physically, but it’s really rewarding. Not many two days are the same. Most jobs will last three to four days – very rarely will you get bored. There’s always something to learn even once you’ve finished your trade, it’s only really the beginning.

Ashley: So it’s been good to follow it through from start to finish and it’s quite rewarding to be able to see the finished product.

Clinton: Well, it’s been an eventful day for Ashley and he’s managed to impress the boss.

Adam: I think Ashley has a very good future in this. He’s an intelligent guy, he’s keen to learn and he seems willing, he seems to like the outdoors and that’s what we’re after really. I’d be more than happy to employ Ashley as an apprentice and take him through his training. I think he’s got good potential..

Ashley: I think it’s just the job for me!

Clinton: To gain a National Certificate in Horticulture - Advanced Landscape (Level 4), takes three years. This includes practical on-the-job training as well as theory work off the job. Apprentices earn while they learn. Salaries start on the minimum wage and increase as experience is gained. There is no specific entry requirements to become a landscape gardener. However, a driver’s license is preferred by most employers.

Clinton: Awesome stuff, Ashley.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a landscaper. However, horticultural or gardening experience is useful. A driver's licence is also preferred by most employers.

Many employers prefer to hire someone with relevant training. Landscape design courses are available through a number of polytechnics and you can train on the job and complete an apprenticeship in landscaping through the Primary Industry Training Organisation (Primary ITO).

Secondary education

A minimum of three years' of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include English, maths, horticulture, biology and processing technologies. Year 11 and 12 students can work towards a New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture through the National Trade Academy while still working towards NCEA. This usually includes off-site learning and some on-the-job training.

Personal requirements

Landscapers need to be:

  • reliable and hard working
  • able to work independently or as part of a team.

If you want to move up, you need to have an understanding of maths for calculating numbers of plants and working out quantities of paving, mulch or bark.

Elle Anderson – President, Landscaping New Zealand

Useful experience

Useful experience for landscapers includes:

  • any building and construction work
  • any work in the horticulture industry
  • labouring work.

Physical requirements

Landscapers need to have a good level of fitness and must be strong, as their work involves bending, kneeling for long periods and heavy lifting.

Find out more about training

Landscaping New Zealand
(09) 444 4345 - admin@lianz.org.nz - www.lianz.org.nz
Primary Industry Training Organisation
0800 208020 - info@primaryito.ac.nz - www.primaryito.ac.nz
Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture
(03) 325 2811 - rnzih@xtra.co.nz - www.rnzih.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

The amount of landscaping work available is strongly linked to the state of the building industry. Increased residential and commercial building activity, especially in Auckland, has contributed to steady demand for landscapers. 

Most job opportunities for those starting out in the industry are in larger cities like Auckland and Christchurch. A trend towards the construction of high-end buildings in these cities is also creating opportunities for landscapers to work on bigger landscaping projects. 

Increase your chances of finding work

Graduates and those new to the industry can increase their chances of finding work by:

  • making the most of networking opportunities, such as attending branch meetings of the Landscaping New Zealand (LIANZ).
  • contacting potential employers by phone, or making a time to meet face-to-face
  • approaching landscape companies in spring/summer when there is more chance of being hired. 

Landscapers usually need to work on site in hands-on roles for a few years and develop a good understanding of the practicalities of the work before progressing to design jobs.There is greater competition for landscape design roles, and you need to get established in the industry before you can secure contract design work. 

Most landscapers work for small businesses   

Landscapers usually work for small private firms. Many are also self-employed.

Sources

  • Morrison, T, 'NZ residential building consents highest in 10 years', July 2016, (www.scoop.co.nz).
  • Morrison, W, Texture Group, accredited member of Registered Master Landscapers New Zealand, Careers Directorate - Tertiary Education Commission interview, August 2017. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Landscapers may progress to a team leader or managerial role, or set up their own landscaping company. 

A landscaper putting in steel frames for a portico

Landscapers design and remodel gardens and landscapes (Photo: Texture Landscapes)

Last updated 14 September 2019