As the American novelist Myron S Kaufmann once said, “Watching something grow is good for morale. It helps us believe in life.”
Nigel Monk does more than just watch things grow. When Nigel speaks about New Vision Landscapes (NVL), it’s clear he is as passionate now about landscaping as the day he started in the industry 25 years ago.
West Coaster Nigel moved to the Nelson region as a teenager. “I was the class clown and the teachers were quick to put me on a trades training programme,” he laughs. That placement proved fortuitous as Nigel started at Colonial Landscapes where he discovered his passion for landscaping. He worked there for several years with a stint in the middle working overseas. On his return to Nelson he was determined to start his own business.
Nigel Monk Landscapes was born in 2003. Back then, the business was a much leaner operation with Nigel its only employee for the first year. At that time, he also met his future business – and life – partner Angela McGrath, who he’s quick to acknowledge for her key role in the growth of the business. “If it wasn’t for her,” he says, “I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
The company rebranded to New Vision Landscapes six years ago.
“It was clear that the business was growing quickly and becoming more about the entire team’s skills, not just mine,” explains Nigel.
Fast forward to the present day and the couple have 30 permanent staff and recently welcomed a third partner, NVL’s business manager Claire McNutt. “Securing Claire’s financial skills long-term is essential in managing our rapid growth,” Nigel adds.
These days Nigel’s managing-director role sees him mostly in the office, drawing landscape plans and meeting clients. “Nigel is the visible face of New Vision Landscapes; engaging with clients is what he does best,” says Angela, who is responsible for human resources and brand management.
Working directly with clients means Nigel’s up with the latest trends, of which there are plenty. These include smaller section sizes and more inner-city living, with people treating their gardens as extended living spaces and wanting outdoor fires, decking and pools etc.
“The local market is now investing in hard landscaping and they’re seeing the benefit of being able to use their outdoor space all year round in our excellent climate,” notes Nigel. “Property investors are also seeing the value hard landscaping can add to a home.”
Another landscaping trend taking off is easily maintainable gardens. Nigel has seen artificial ‘turf’ enquiries increase dramatically during the last year, especially with improved turf quality and appearance. Sub-tropical and native plantings are always popular low-maintenance options too, he adds.
To ensure the business stays up-to-date with overseas trends, Nigel regularly attends landscape conferences and trade shows such as the 2018 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, 2018 Landscape Australia Conference and the 2019 Outdoor Living Expo in Melbourne. All were, in his opinion, worthwhile as he came back with many new ideas around designing and building functional outdoor living spaces. “Pools, living walls and outdoor kitchens are huge in Australia regardless of the section size,” Nigel observes.
NVL has its own ‘pool expert’ in the form of projects manager Shannon Helliwell who started in landscaping nearly 20 years ago, initially training under Nigel at another company. With NVL for 18 months now, Shannon is kept busy with larger developments such as Olive Estate Lifestyle Village (OELV) in Richmond, managing the landscape construction there.
Lots of clients want swimming pools, he says. “Originally we contracted out the pool side of the landscaping to other companies, but now we provide the complete package ourselves – from dig-out to completion. Keeping the pool projects within NVL makes it much easier for our clients; they only have to deal with one person.”
Many clients are interested in NVL’s Barrier Reef pools with a MagnaPool™ system featuring a revolutionary blend of minerals for pool water that is healthier and more environmentally friendly than traditional saltwater and chlorine systems. NVL also uses Zodiac pumps, filters and other pool equipment for all its projects.
“There’s nothing bad in the water so it can go straight back into other water,” explains Shannon, adding he’d like to see all pools become magna-pools. “There are benefits for the environment and the body; the magnesium minerals are good for the skin, bones, hair and general wellbeing as well as the environment.”
Additionally, he says, a magna system can be retro-fitted to an existing pool. “It’s not a high cost to set up; initially there is a bit involved, but once it’s up and running it is easy.”
Barrier Reef pools are constructed from sturdy fibreglass in a range of shapes and sizes, and can be installed (provided planning consent is through) within a week from dig-out to finish, he says.
Keeping projects ticking
Another key team member at NVL is operations manager Luke Thelin who looks after scheduling, budgets and resourcing. With NVL almost six years, Luke started in the landscaping business while still at school, working for his brother’s business.
Nelson-born and bred, Luke first started at NVL and was involved with maintenance, but over the years has progressed up the ranks. “It’s a good company to work for; it’s rewarding for me and NVL also rewards its people for hard work.”
Luke enjoys the variety of work, the different people he meets on the job, and the difference that can be made in a short time to a property. “It’s not always doing the same thing; I meet and work with a wide variety of people.”
This also includes the opportunity to regularly work with regional landscape architects such as Canopy and OBDesign on projects ranging from executive residential stunners through to large commercial contracts.
One of the latter includes Olive Estate Lifestyle Village (OELV); a sizeable, ongoing development that has raised NVL’s profile. “The OELV owners, the Nimmos, took a risk on NVL as we were unknowns in the commercial sector,” says Nigel. “The risk paid off. Canopy’s landscape design and NVL’s dedicated OELV landscape team have created a dream landscape project.”
Another project that is special to the NVL team is the new Nelson Tasman Hospice, about which they are absolutely delighted and very proud to be associated with. “Working in with local contractors, who donated generously and gave their all, was fantastic,” Nigel notes.
A large project coming up for NVL is ‘The Fields’ residential development in Lower Queen Street, Richmond. “We’re really looking forward to seeing how this project develops,” comments Nigel. “The interest in this development has been phenomenal.”
Their clients’ ongoing delight in the work that NVL has done for them is something that Nigel values. Ninety-nine percent of their work comes through repeats and referrals. “We work hard to upskill our staff and have tight recruitment controls in place,” Nigel explains. “It’s our team out representing the NVL brand every day.”
Judging by the regular feedback Nigel receives and the quality of work being produced, NVL’s staff members are doing them proud. “Our clients appreciate that we are experts in landscaping; we don’t pretend to be anything else,” surmises Nigel.