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Putting his body on the line

Green with Envy boss Robert Taku has put his body on the line for landscaping – literally.

But the 30+ year veteran says he wouldn’t change anything for the world

Robert Taku has been in the industry longer than most apprentices have been alive. He’s seen landscaping change and adapt as the years have rolled by and he’s still stoked to earn a living from it.

With a childhood that consisted of pig hunting, fishing and mucking in on the farm, working with his hands was inevitable.

“I started with Second Nature in Auckland and was there for 14 years before leaving to found Green with Envy, which has been going for 17 years now. I’ve loved it the whole way through!”

The company now employs five people and that’s just the way Robert likes it.

“I’ve never really wanted to grow the business – I like the level it’s at, as it gives me the freedom to have a good work/life balance. If I was focused on growth, I wouldn’t be able to do that. To be honest, the main reason I left Second Nature to start my own thing was so I could spend more time with my young family, and I still have those same goals.

“I’d even love to ease off the pedal a little bit more, but finding staff who are experienced enough to step up is difficult. By the time you train someone in-house to be at that level, they’re ready to move on and it’s back to the drawing board. I’m definitely seeing more movement of staff now than there was before.”

Occupational hazards

Despite the tricky moments, it’s safe to say that Robert wouldn’t have lasted over 30 years in landscaping if he wasn’t sure it was the industry for him. But that hasn’t come without certain sacrifices.

“I’ve got two new rotator cuffs in my shoulder and just had a hip operation. My right shoulder was done eight years ago and has been great. The left was done in July this year and the hip in October. I’ll be on light work for five to eight weeks, which is frustrating, but sometimes the body needs to rest.

“Other than that, I’m golden,” he laughs. “I’ve got no back or knee trouble!”

The work he’s done to earn those mementoes occurs mainly in the residential space, with repeat clients being the name of the game.

Loyal customers

“Work is really busy. We’ve got heaps on the books for 2023 already – we’ve found people are calling us because their DIY job is harder than they thought, or they’ve just reached a point where they need a professional!

“A lot of our clients come back to us, either because they’re moving properties and want us to handle the garden in their new place or they want to remodel their existing landscape. For example, about 10 years ago, I worked with some clients, who wanted a lot of straight lines and a low-maintenance garden because they had full-time jobs,

They've since retired and we re-did their landscape to give it more light and curves. We also included more flowers and made it into a place where they could spend and enjoy their time.”

Over the years, Robert has seen many new products come and go.

“There’s so much more available for different things. For example, you can get decking products that have a timber appearance but are made from plastic composites!

“One thing we do use a lot is the variety of hardwood decking boards, as well as the different fastenings and installation systems.”

It pays to be a master

In a sea of change, one thing that’s been a constant is Robert’s Registered Master Landscapers (RML) membership.

“I remember some of the meetings we used to have with some great industry leaders, but they were dominated by older guys, so it’s good to see some fresh blood getting interested in the RML through the Facebook page and NZ Landscaper.

“I don’t attend as many meetings as I used to, but I’d love to get involved with it again because it’s something that I really enjoyed.”

When asked why he renews his membership every year, Robert says it’s a good card to have up his sleeve if ever new clients are considering giving Green with Envy their business.

“Having the recognition of an industry body like the RML behind you is a good selling point. It shows that you’re good at what you do.”

But that’s not the only reason he keeps going back.

“The great thing is that you don’t just pay your subscription fee and then get forgotten about.

You get invited to events, people reach out to you and that makes you feel valued as a member. That’s part of the reason why I love supporting the organisation.”


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