A long-time industry veteran and former President of NZ Landscaping, Adam Pollard’s passion for landscaping is rivalled only by his dedication to encouraging young people to join the industry he loves
Adam was introduced to landscaping at any early age, through his father, Roger, who co-owned Morgan and Pollard Landscaping. Despite the heritage, and 25 years in the industry, it didn’t always go smoothly.
“As most rural kids will relate to, when I was young, I helped my dad out with whatever needed doing. That included mowing our 100-acre paddocks on a tractor at the age of 11. That’s how I got my first under-age driving ticket! The cop who stopped me said I needed to be 12 to drive a tractor between paddocks, which now seems far too young! Fortunately, he let me off the $150 fine with a warning, because at $2.80 an hour, it was going to take me a long time to pay it off!”
After that shaky start in ‘landscaping’, Adam decided to become a qualified carpenter, running his own building business for a few years.
“In a way, growing up around landscaping made me want to do something else, just because you have to do it when you’re young. However, after a couple of years building, I wanted to broaden my skill base by also offering landscaping services on the side.”
Back to his roots
Instead of being the add-on he envisaged, Adam found he loved it – particularly the design and creative aspect.
“It is entirely solution-based – rather than just building a house, we have to meld the house into the surroundings. So I decided to come back to Morgan and Pollard.”
Adam completed his landscaping apprenticeship as soon as he was back on board, at the age of 28.
“I got it done quickly thanks to recognition of prior learning, and possibly didn’t need to do it, but I really wanted the formal qualification so that I could train our own apprentices.”
Adam then went on to be President of NZ Landscaping (the precursor to Registered Master Landscapers) and sat on its executive committee.
“I did two stints as President of NZ Landscaping – the first for three years, and another two years later. Then I spent a decade on the executive committee; I handed over when the Board was put in place in 2017.”
What many in the industry know Adam best for is his connection with Primary ITO and its predecessor for landscapers, the Horticulture Industry Training Organisation.
“I was Chair of the Board of Hort ITO for close to ten years, which included the time in which it was merged with Agriculture ITO, and then I spent two years on the Primary ITO Board.”
Paying it forward
“I felt an obligation to promote training in landscaping, because someone had taken the time to train me. Also, our company has always had a strong link to training thanks to Alan Morgan. He did a lot in this space and suggested I do it – not only because I would be assisting the next generation, but because I would also get a lot out of it.
“He was right. I learned a lot about different but associated industries, such as florists, arborists and fruit growers. It was often challenging work, but that’s why I kept doing it. In fact, I’m still doing it now – as Chair of the Industry Partnership Group. It’s a bit like the mafia – once you’re in, you don’t get out!”
Every day is different
Variety. That is the feature Adam names as the key reason young people should consider a career in landscaping.
“Landscaping is quite a unique trade in that we don’t just do one thing. We can be building a deck one day, and planting trees the next. Or maybe even a bit of drainage. It’s much more varied than most trades. Yes, it’s hard work and can be hard on your body at times, but the variety is what keeps our guys interested.“
Adam says that in the time he’s been in landscaping, many things have changed, while others have not.
“There has been a big increase in the scope of work, the complexity of construction and the design of landscapes, as well as an increase in the amount of money people are spending. We are also doing a lot more. Back in the day, a homeowner would do a lot themselves, and only get us to do the really difficult parts. Now clients are so busy, we basically do everything.”
“What has not changed is the physicality of landscaping. It is still hard physical work. I tell my guys they get a free gym membership!”
Benefits of belonging
With so many years on industry organisations, it’s no surprise Adam has clear views on the benefits of belonging to Registered Master Landscapers, and it revolves around people.
“The greatest benefit to RML members is the network of people you connect to. That’s the reason I joined when I was new to the industry. I wanted to meet like-minded companies and get to know people in my industry.”
Adam says it also means that, as a small business, you are part of something bigger.
“Landscaping businesses tend to be quite small and isolated. When times are tough, it’s good to know you’re not the only one who might be struggling. This way, you have an industry body representing your interests at a higher level. It’s also just useful to have contacts around the country – either to help on a job you might have out of town, or to give a client a recommendation.
When asked what is the best part of being a landscaper, Adam laughs, because he’d just been asking his team the same question the day before.
“I was just talking about this at a staff meeting yesterday! I would say it is seeing the look on clients faces when you make something for them that surpasses what they expected or even wanted. Having talked about it with the team, I think that’s what motivates most landscapers and it’s why we love what we do”.