Whether you take the contracting road, the foreman or managerial track, or the design and architect avenue, landscaping offers many different pathways.

“You need to be hard working, responsible and creative. You need to be able to think outside the square,” explains Nic Muir, the 2014 Young Landscaper of the Year.

For Nic, being a builder had been on the cards, but after discovering the creativity, variation and opportunities involved in landscaping, he was hooked. After considering the length of some landscaping and architectural degrees, Nic completed a one-year course at Otago Polytechnic in landscape construction and design.

Although some of his co-workers didn’t pursue any tertiary training, Nic claims that if you want to go further in the industry then study is definitely beneficial. Having that extra tertiary study advantage, he found that gaining employment (with Artworks Landscape in Christchurch) was not difficult.

Eleven years later, he now holds the national title of 2014 Landscaper of the Year, which, he says modestly, gave him “a bit of recognition”. This accolade involved a challenging series of theory and practical activities.

“The big thing is because I won that, I went on to go to Young Horticulturist of the Year, which was kind of like a grand final,” says Nic. “I went up against the winners of some other titles, like the winner of the viticulture award.” Overall, Nic placed third and was happy with his achievement.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) projects there will be an employment growth rate in landscaping of about 4.8 per cent per year until 2018, while the number of online job vacancies for architects and landscape architects has already increased by 50.5 per cent from June 2013 to June 2014.  It’s obvious that the number of opportunities for landscapers is increasing.

It’s also clear that the Canterbury rebuild has provided more job opportunities for architects and landscape architects. Many of Nic’s current projects are earthquake related and can take anywhere between one week and four months, depending on the size and difficulty of the job. Increasing building activity in places like Auckland has also contributed to the boom.

In addition to this, the Ministry for the Environment is focusing on environmental concerns, resulting in an increased demand for sustainably planned buildings and open spaces. This will consequently drive demand for the services of landscapers and landscape architects. Ultimately, the public’s desire for practical and beautiful spaces creates an ongoing need for good site planning and landscape design.

This is not to say that landscaping is only for the use and satisfaction of the customer. “Seeing the end result of all the hard work and knowing that you’ve either done it yourself or had a hand in doing it is pretty rewarding,” explains Nic. One of his more gratifying moments includes looking at a massive water feature that cascaded 10 metres into various ponds and knowing that he’d created it.

For those contemplating a profession in landscaping, Nic is full of encouragement. “If you like working outside, having a varied job and you don’t mind a bit of manual labour at times, then it’s an awesome career.”

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