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Passion set in stone

Barrow & Stone occupies a unique position among New Zealand’s landscaping firms, working with a product not widely seen across the country and with a small group of committed employees

Director William Shaw hasn’t always had his passions set in stone. In fact, it took him until his mid-20s to discover a love of landscaping and working outdoors. 

“I was living in London with my partner in 2014. It was a difficult time for me, because my father had just passed away, I had no money and I couldn’t find a job – but I knew I could garden, because I’d done it a lot with my family in New Zealand. So, I looked online and found a job with a landscaping company run by Kiwis called Kiwilandscapes.” 

William learned the ins and outs of soft landscaping over the next 12 months, after which he moved into hard landscaping. It was during that time that his love of stone developed. 

“In my experience, most UK landscapers do brick and blockwork, or work with stone, whereas New Zealand landscapers mostly work with timber."

"My appreciation for stone came from my experience in England. I love the history of it, I love how it still looks good after centuries, and I love imagining how many people have walked on it and thinking about their stories."

“Another thing I love about natural stone is that every piece you pick up or lay is different and you can feel a connection with it.”

Taking stone home

Having developed such a deep passion for the material, and becoming a qualified stonemason, there was only one thing William wanted to do when he returned home to New Zealand five years ago – open his own landscaping business, specialising in stone. 

“The trouble was, I couldn’t find any stone I wanted to lay. I spent six weeks in India meeting suppliers and visiting quarries.

It was important to me to build good relationships with potential suppliers, so I could be sure that the product I was getting would be up to scratch.”

Barrow & Stone was formed in 2019 and provides soft and hard landscaping services with a specialist focus. 

“If someone asks for a timber deck, I’ll usually refer them to someone else – if I can’t convince them to go with stone,” says William. “We offer a specialist service and we want to stick to that. 

“Often, when I talk to clients about the product and give them the option to use affordable, long-lasting stone that looks just as good as timber – if not better – they normally get keen on it.

“Interestingly, a lot of people in New Zealand will opt for concrete over stone, but they don’t realise concrete weathers worse than any other product, especially if it’s not sealed correctly!” 

Talking about stone is something William loves doing, and his passion for his work shines through during conversation with him. He’s now an established operator in Tauranga and splits his work 50/50 across soft landscaping, including maintenance work and stonework.

Different every time

Barrow & Stone will predominantly work on bespoke architectural builds, which allows William to work on jobs that keep him excited. 

Apart from one full-time staff member, he uses preferred contractors on each job. 

“I’ll contract up to eight people, depending on our workload. I’ve got a big project coming up that will require three or four contractors. We’ve been asked to do 150m2 of house cladding, using beautiful travertine stone from Italy.”

William isn’t afraid to give other up-and-coming stonemasons a go and says he’ll “give anyone an apprenticeship who wants one”. 

His full-timer is currently undertaking his stonemasonary apprenticeship and will enter the Registered Master Landscapers (RML) Young Landscaper of the Year competition this year. 

The test of skill and knowledge pits 10 of the country’s best young landscapers under 30 years old against each other in a friendly but competitive two days of practical, written and oral exams. 

“I took him along to check out the 2023 competition in Dunedin, so hopefully he’ll have a solid idea of what to expect this year,” says William. 

As for entering the RML’s annual Landscapes of Distinction awards, William reckons he’s finally ready to show off his finest work. 

“I’ve been keen to enter one of my gardens for a while now, but I think a garden needs at least three seasons to get it looking good – maybe more, if you’ve changed something around. I think this year will be the year we enter one!”

RML Networking

William has been an RML member for about four years and enjoys the support that being part of the organisation offers him. 

“I joined it for the networking opportunities and I’ve found a really supportive group of landscapers. 

I’m on the phone every week to other RML members, talking through little aspects of the work we’re doing. I’ve even had a few calls to congratulate me on a job well done, or vice versa! 

“If someone has a client interested in stonework, they’ll recommend me and I’ll return the favour on work that I don’t do.” 

With order books strong, a network he can rely on and a stone retail arm to his business, William can be confident knowing that his passion will continue to pay dividends.


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