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Young Landscaper of the Year Awards

On an overcast day in Christchurch in March, 13 of the country’s best and brightest young landscapers performed an array of set tasks designed to test their mettle and identify the Young Landscaper of the Year

The tasks performed ranged widely, from bricklaying to painting to plant identification, and finished with a three-minute speech. After four hours of scrutiny from a panel of judges, first time competitor Tama Ritter, from Southern Landmarx, emerged as the winner. Ben Dyson and Hayden Parker, who have both competed in previous years, also took out some award categories.

Young Landscaper of the Year

Tama Ritter - Southern Landmarx

With eight years of landscaping under his belt, and the past five fully certified, it seems Tama was ready for the Young Landscaper of the Year competition. While he’d been to check it out before, this was his first time competing, and he says the competition brings different challenges than landscaping on the job.

“Being judged as you work brings a different sense to the tasks – 30 minutes seems like plenty of time to do most of them, until you’re being timed – then the time disappears very quickly! The pressure of people watching and discussing what you’re doing is different too. I started second-guessing what I was doing, even with things I knew I was competent at! I wasn’t expecting that to happen.”

Making a speech was the most challenging task, says Tama.

“I’m confident talking in smaller groups and it’s a big part of my job, as I run a small team. But having to write a speech on a subject, in a short space of time, and then present to thirty or forty people was harder. I dealt with it by trying to be funny –people were laughing so it must have gone OK.”

Given that Tama picked up the Communication Award, it seems likely his speech did go OK. And while Tama says he’s thrilled to have won against such strong competitors, he took more than the win away with him.

“Given my experience, and the fact that I currently manage the daily operations of the company, I felt confident and I expected myself to do well going into it. But when I met the other contestants, I realised we had similar levels of experience and I knew any of us could win. Beyond that, we’re all similar people to a point, so it was easy

to connect with my fellow competitors. Because of that, it quickly became more about the experience than the desire to win, and I’ve come away from this competition with more connections and relationships than prizes.”

Given the benefits he feels the competition offers to competitors, Tama is keen to get a crew of his staff enter next year.

“The competition is not overly serious, so I’m hoping staff will be keen – there’s no real pressure to win, except the pressure you put on yourself. The experience provides plenty of learning opportunities and you can compete at every level and find out what you need to work on. Plus, seeing the standard of the Landscapes of Distinction houses will motivate you to try to meet that same standard!”

Leadership award

Hayden Parker - Morgan and Pollard

Hayden took away the Leadership Award from the Young Landscaper competition. He says giving handy hints to some of his competitors was a factor in that.

“I think partly I won because at times when I wasn’t really ‘competing’. If I saw someone struggling with a task, I’d offer some advice.

“For some of those who haven’t been in the competition before, the nerves can make even a task you know how to do well, into something very difficult!”

Hayden says having competed before provided a significant confidence boost.

“I think having that confidence made a real difference to my performance. Even though I didn’t win this time, I’ve still gained more confidence again from the experience. Some of the judges came up to me and said I’d better come back next year – so I’m eager to compete again and go further next time.”

Innovation and construction awards

Ben Dyson - Natural Habitats

Ben picked up the Innovation Award, something he believes is a reflection of three projects; one he is running at Natural Habitats, one that focuses on changing the way landscaping teams work together, and a new pricing approach he’s come up with.

“We are always looking for ways to make our crews work better and produce better results. I think the project I’m running now will mean everyone in our teams have more robust core landscaping skills, no matter what the team’s specialty is.

Ben also took the Construction Award, which he says came partly because he took his time and partly due to a bit of good luck.

“I will admit I got a bit lucky, because I did the profile set out last, so I had seen a few people trip up on this task. The guys who do that stuff regularly were maybe a bit too comfortable and tried to get it done fast.

“But the judges were looking for accuracy, so stopping and taking a few extra minutes to double check your measurements, and making sure judges know you are doing this, is the approach I took.

“In fact, I think within that is a key pointer for every challenge in the competition – always use all the time you have.”

Ben, like Hayden, had competed in the Young Landscaper of the Year award, but that doesn’t mean he had the whole thing dialled this time.

“My plant knowledge was a weakness last time, and it was again this time too. At least I know what I’ve got to work on for next time!”

From the team at New Zealand Landscaper – congratulations to all the winners in 2021, thanks to all the participants, the judges, and to Urban Paving who hosted the Young Landscaper competition.

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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