Groundspeople are in charge of the turf (grass), tracks and pitches at sports fields, golf courses, public areas, schools and racecourses.
Groundspeople with up to two years' experience usually earn
$47K-$60K per year
Head groundspeople and managers usually earn
$60K-$100K per year
Source: Primary ITO, 2017.
Pay for groundspeople varies depending on grounds size, their level of responsibility and the region they work in.
- Trainees may start on minimum wage or a little more.
- Groundspeople with up to two years' experience can earn up to $60,000 a year.
- Head groundspeople usually earn between $60,000 and $80,000.
Groundspeople in managerial positions at large golf courses or stadiums, and contract managers who manage council contracts, may earn over $100,000.
Source: Primary ITO, 2017.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Groundspeople may do some or all of the following:
- mow, irrigate, control disease, weeds and pests, and repair and roll grassed areas
- sow grass seed or lay turf
- operate and maintain irrigation and drainage systems, mowing equipment and machinery
- prepare and mark out sports fields, cricket pitches, tennis courts, golf courses or racetracks
- keep grounds tidy and do maintenance work on fences and buildings
- cultivate and maintain flowers, shrubs and trees
- organise rubbish removal, recycling and composting.
Those in managerial positions may also:
- manage staff and budgets
- keep records for planning and council compliance.
Skills and knowledge
Groundspeople need to have:
- an understanding of soil and plant science (agronomy) and care
- knowledge of pest, weed and disease control methods and how to put them into practice safely
- knowledge of climate and weather forecasting
- skill in using and repairing machinery including specialised turf equipment
- knowledge of landscaping techniques.
- usually work regular business hours, but often work weekends during sporting events
- may work at sports fields and pitches, parks, golf courses, schools, turf farms, racecourses, private grounds, or offices
- work in all weather conditions.
What's the job really like?
If Neli Laufoli makes a mistake in his job as a turf management trainee, there's no way to hide it. "On race days the cameras are on the track and you can see the mow lines, like patterns in carpet." So Neli's most important job is making sure the turf at the Auckland Racing Club looks perfect.
Mowing the perfect line
"We have competitions with other race tracks you know, to see whose lines are the straightest. The first mow is the most important to get your line straight, because that's right up against the running rail. If you hit the running rail and it falls over, then you're basically stuffed – you're in disgrace!"
Being part of the big event
"The atmosphere on a race day is cool and it's fun. We make sure everything is running OK on the track. We keep an eye on the rails because on a really hot day they can expand and bend out.
"It's a nice feeling at the big races when people comment on the track at the speeches. They say it's a really good track and stuff like that, and you get a good feeling because you are part of the team that did it."
There are no specific entry qualifications to become a groundsperson. However, completing an apprenticeship and gaining a National Diploma in Sports Turf Management may be useful.
Growsafe courses and certificate allow you to apply pesticides and herbicides.
- Primary ITO website - courses and qualifications in sports turf management
- Growsafe website - Growsafe courses and certificates
A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include maths, science, English, and agriculture and horticulture.
For Year 11 to 13 learners, trades academies and the STAR and Gateway programmes are good ways to gain relevant experience and skills.
These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.
Groundspeople need to be:
- good team workers
- patient, as mowing large areas is repetitive work
- able to follow instructions.
Those in managerial roles may also need to be good at:
- managing staff
- planning and record-keeping.
Useful experience for groundspeople includes:
- an interest in sport
- farming and horticulture work
- work at parks or reserves
- gardening or landscaping work.
Knowledge of the sport you are preparing turf for is useful but not essential.
Groundspeople need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong as the job involves quite a lot of walking.
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Sports Turf Institute
- (06) 356 8090 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzsti.org.nz/
- Primary Industry Training Organisation
- 0800 691 111 - email@example.com - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Good demand for groundspeople
Opportunities for groundspeople are good as:
- grounds need to be maintained regularly
- vacancies arise fairly often due to growing use of sportsgrounds, requiring more people to maintain them
- turnover is relatively high among groundspeople at the non-managerial level.
Qualified groundspeople with management, business and technical skills are most in demand, especially in the local government sector, which includes city and district councils.
Demand is greatest in the main city centres due to increasing population in these areas, and a growing number of people wanting to play sport. This means more sportsgrounds are being built in the main centres.
According to the Census, 3,354 groundspeople worked in New Zealand in 2018.
A direct approach is the best way to find a job
You can increase your chances of getting a job by finding out who manages your local golf course, club, sportsground or racetrack, and approaching them directly.
The best time to get work experience is spring and autumn when maintenance work is highest, and when hundreds of temporary workers are taken on by sportsgrounds. If you enjoy the work, like operating machinery and can show that you are reliable, you are likely to be asked to stay on permanently and be offered an apprenticeship in sports turf management.
Those with an understanding of occupational safety and health, and who have a Growsafe and/or Agrichemical Approved Handler Certificate from their experience in the farming or horticultural sectors will have an advantage.
Types of employers varied
Most groundspeople work for:
- city councils – this includes work on rugby fields and cricket pitches
- companies that are contracted to city and district councils to do sports turf management
- golf courses, racetracks and bowling greens
- Rose, K, sector advisor – sports turf, Primary ITO, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, September 2017.
- Statistics New Zealand, 'Census of Population and Dwellings', 2014, (www.stats.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Groundspeople may progress to managerial positions. If they work for a city council, they can move into operation management and could be in charge of up to 40 grounds and the associated budgets.
Groundspeople may specialise in maintaining a specific type of sports ground such as horse-racing tracks or golf courses.
Last updated 4 April 2023