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Old hands at Young Landscaper of the Year

The Young Landscaper of the Year Awards are just around the corner! The competition will be held on 12 March in Christchurch – with the public encouraged to attend. We talk to three entrants who are returning for a second shot at the title. Will one of these guys win in 2021?

There are 13 entrants for the 2021 Young Landscaper of the Year competition, with some of those having competed before in 2019 (the 2020 edition was postponed due to Covid-19).

We spoke to three of those who are lining up for the competition again, and asked about their motivations, what they see as their strengths in the competition and whether they’re planning on doing anything different this time around.

Hayden Parker

Role: Landscape Foreman, Morgan and Pollard

Age: 28

Hayden has been in the industry for six years, having worked as a manager in a supermarket before finding landscaping.

He knew right away what areas he wanted to focus on after the 2019 competition; one of which is shared with his fellow competitor Ben.

“My plant and weed knowledge let me down last year, so I’ve been working on that. I’ve also been focusing on my interactions with customers – stepping up my game and taking leadership in this role. The competition aside, that has been really useful for my own professional development.”

Hayden says the construction side is his strength: “I’ve got a mind that keeps moving and wants to know how things work, so I thrive in the building side of it.”

When asked if there’s anything he plans to approach differently this year, Hayden says he’s keen to interact more with the other competitors.

“I really enjoyed the interaction between competitors last year, but this year I plan to be even more open. I want to talk about what I’m doing and incorporate the people around me. That’s partly so the judges know what I’m doing, and partly it’s for moral support for my competitors, because, after all, we are there to do what we love, and we all love the same thing, so it makes sense to me to be

on the same team.”

Ben Dyson

Role: Contract and Estimating Manager, Natural Habitats

Age: 27

Ben Dyson has been in landscaping for five years. He started in a different industry though – civil construction.

“I didn’t dislike my previous career, but an interesting opportunity in landscaping came up and I took it. I fell in love with it and can’t imagine not being in this industry now. I’m not on the tools anymore, but the real workers in our crew still let me hang around!”

In preparing for the 2021 competition, Ben says he’s been working to address a weakness he feels let him down in his attempt.

“I was pretty happy with how things went overall last time. But the thing that let me down was plant identification. I got a bit flustered and couldn’t identify some plants that I did know, which was frustrating, so I’ve been practicing plant knowledge since then. Every time I come across a plant I don’t know, I Google it. Still, as a North Islander, I hope there aren’t too many South Island plants to identify this time!”

Ben says the strongest part of his landscaping is the business side of things, which includeds pitching to clients.

“I’m in the contractual management side of the industry, so my estimating is pretty good. Last time in the competition, I wondered is giving a speech really a part of landscaping? Maybe it’s not exactly the same style of presentation but confident speaking is definitely part of talking to clients and pitching for new business.”

Ben is clear on his motivations for returning to compete in 2021, which include enjoying himself and making contacts with his future industry-mates.

“It’s a bloody good competition and I am really looking forward to it. One thing I really like is that we get to know the people who are going to lead the industry in a few years’ time. These are the people who are all going to run their own companies one day, which also means they will be our competition in the future Landscapes of Distinction Awards!”

Guillaume Chabbert (or just Gilly, to his mates)

Role: Site Manager, Natural Habitats

Age: 28

Guillaume completed his landscaping qualification in his homeland of France. However, landscaping wasn’t what he originally intended for a career.

“I studied to be an engineer, but part way through my qualification I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I have always loved being outside, so I just couldn’t see myself spending all my days inside around all those computers. I’d been mowing lawns on a ride-on from age 13, and always enjoyed it, so I looked into landscaping.”

Fortunately, Guillaume was able to take some of his credits in engineering and transfer them, which enabled him to complete a degree in landscaping.

New Zealand has been Guillaume’s home for three years now and he doesn’t see that changing any time soon.

“I really like New Zealand and I am fortunate to have a job I love here, so why would I change that?”

Asked whether there is anything he’s been focusing on since the 2019 competition, Guillaume says his speech. He elaborates that he means both the speech itself – which contestants must deliver as part of the competition – and his English pronunciation, so Kiwis can understand him a “wee bit” easier.

“I’ve been working ‘heaps and heaps’ on my accent and the words I use”, says Gillaume. “Hopefully this will help me in this year’s competition,” he says. Guillaume considers his strength to be in the hard landscaping side of the industry.

“I prefer the construction and carpentry aspects of the job, maybe because there are numbers involved and I have a background in engineering. Whatever the reason, I like how it keeps my brain busy.”

Guillaume explains he’ll also be bringing a new approach to the 2021 competition, with a focus on more than just winning.

“Last time, I really wanted to win, but now, having competed before, I know the competition is actually about more than that, so I’m going for a few reasons. Firstly, because I know it will be a good time! In fact, I have convinced one of my staff, who wasn’t going to enter, as he didn’t think he could win, to sign up, because I know he will enjoy it. Secondly, I’m entering because it is great to be able to compare your work against your peers. And yes, last but not least, I’m entering because I would like to win this time!"

Registered Master Landscapers is committed to supporting landscape professionals and young future leaders.

For more information contact CEO Janine Scott on or phone 0275 444 090


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