Introducing the Rural Design team
To promote leadership in our industry, we have gathered some of the best heads together who are deeply passionate about horticulture and landscape ecology. Please meet the team:
Director / Operations Manager
Director / BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
Dispatch & Procurement manager
Team leader – property maintenance
Tara iti manager
Senior Ecologist & Restoration manager
Darren Van Beek
Project Manager & Iwi Liaison
seed collection & Propogation manager
Explore our areas of expertise >
Wholesale Plant Supply
Director / Operations Manager
As Operations Manager, Eden is the backbone of Rural Design. A director since 2014, he keeps a watchful eye over the planning and execution of activities for a rapidly growing team. Described as a veteran in the field of revegetation and land restoration projects, Eden has been involved with Rural Design since he left school. Earlier if you consider the time spent on the family farm from a very young age – gaining wisdom for site preparation, plant selection, layout and design, right through to implementation, pasture management and ongoing maintenance. Along with lifelong learning at the coalface, he is working with his brothers Blake and Heath to further their business with guidance from Business Mentor Trevor Stafford.
Eden’s vast understanding of restoring land, knowledge of native plant species and genuine passion for the environment, puts him in good stead to lead the operations of the business. Years of hands-on experience has given him a sharp eye for pricing jobs and running the more significant, high-value projects. He is respected by clients and colleagues alike for his honest and transparent character and sharp memory for details.
When not at the Rural Design HQ, Eden is passionate about surfing, gardening and farming.
Director / BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
With a Bachelor of Resource Studies, majoring in Wildlife Ecology and Nature Conservation, Heath is passionate about social, economic and environmental sustainability. He gleaned considerable experience from a previous role at Gisborne District Council, along with three years in Town Planning and Appeals & Enforcement for the London Borough of Richmond.
Returning to New Zealand in 2007, Heath was challenged with expanding Rural Design’s offering to include ecological consultancy, a wholesale plant nursery, along with environmental planning and a wide range of admin skills to grow the business.
Heath’s passion for ecology began as a youngster, working alongside Bill on the family farm, along with early day wetland and riparian projects at Rural Design. Channelling his skills, he gained funding from Fish and Game NZ to plant wetlands at the back of the family farm. More recently, he managed a legacy dam-building project to secure valuable water for Rural Design well into the future. He is also a senior member of the NZ Plant Producers Incorporation (NZPPI).
Today, Heath remains a key contact point for clients. His extensive industry networks bode well for securing new business and striving for best-practice environmental outcomes for all.
When not at the desk, Heath enjoys spending time with family and friends. He is a keen fisherman, surfer, and is involved in poultry breeding.
As general manager, Blake draws on his vast experience gathered from the education sector as he leads and motivates the wider Rural Design team.
Working as a secondary teacher for seven years at St Paul’s College and Head Teacher at Geita Gold International School in Tanzania for four years has given him strong leadership qualities in his role at Rural Design.
Blake has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Geography and Anthropology and a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching.
Although he returned to NZ in 2016, working with Rural Design is not a new challenge. Blake spent earlier years working alongside his father Bill, picking up the hallmarks for business success, including a growth and visionary mindset.
Blake and the team are focused on building strong client relationships, and he believes this is what gives Rural Design an edge, along with a trusted reputation in the marketplace.
Mentoring teams does not stop at the workplace for Blake – outside of work he enjoys coaching basketball for Kaipara and Northland.
Marilyn is valued for her sharp communication and integrity. The company has experienced much change and growth since she began in 2014, and she has shaped her role to add value at every turn.
Each day is dynamic, covering administration, payroll, pricing and purchasing. She is also PA to Eden, working on the ever-evolving Tara Iti project.
Before Rural Design, Marilyn worked in the wine and telecommunications industries. Her vast experience in sales and account management is proving invaluable for the Directors and wider team who respect her strengths at multi-tasking and her warm, approachable manner.
Outside of work, relaxing with friends and family is what fuels Marilyn.
Dispatch & Procurement Manager
Danielle is passionate about the industry and is nearing the completion of her NZ Diploma in Horticulture – nursery production. She is responsible for managing the dispatch of plants to all large scale customers, all of the Rural Design planting jobs, and out to various landscape companies. She is kept on her toes procuring plants, with a focus on large trees, and GOLs to be potted in our nursery.
This highly varied role calls for accurate forecasting of future sales. Danielle has excellent communication with the seed collection and potting crew to ensure what is sown and grown for the upcoming season is relevant and time-sensitive too.
Prior to Rural Design, Danielle gained experience working in landscaping, predominantly in high-end residential landscapes, including hard and soft landscaping projects and ongoing maintenance. Those in contact with Danielle respect her wealth of knowledge at native plant identification and her positive and tenacious work ethic.
When not at the RD helm, she relishes the wild beauty of Aotearoa – hiking, road trips and camping with mates.
Team Leader – Property Maintenance
Kirk is the lead for all maintenance and development of both residential garden spaces and general landscaping projects. He is also responsible for adding value and creativity to any projects requiring sustainable garden design.
Before joining the team, Kirk has worked on multiple jobs geared towards the eradication and control of invasive pests and plants on Great Barrier Island. His knowledge is a strong asset for Rural Design’s clients, and he leads his team with ease.
Plant and lawn care is a continuous focus for Kirk, and he is genuinely passionate about making a difference to overall plant health.
Achieving ‘work, life, balance’ is watching the mighty Warriors, fishing, diving and campervan trips with his partner.
Tara Iti Manager
Working on one of Rural Design’s most significant projects, Tara Iti, Jason’s role is to lead the team of workers on plant implementation and weed control at this coveted Golf Club and resort. Before joining Rural Design in 2015, Jason gained experience in the forestry industry and was also a fine-dining chef.
Jason brings many capabilities to this role, including motivating and managing the Tara Iti team. On a daily basis he is responsible for juggling the workflow and all of the time-critical deadlines that come with seasonal planting and weed eradication.
When not at work, Jason continues to enjoy the outdoors with fishing, surfing and skating all favourite pastimes.
Madara (better known as Maddy to most) first joined the Rural Design team in 2017 as an Ecologist and enjoyed a busy stint before leaving to travel. After continuing to build on her experience as an Ecologist in the UK, she soon missed the Kiwi lifestyle. She returned in a permanent capacity, catching up with the team again in early 2019.
Having graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a First-Class Honours degree in Environmental Science, Maddy has worked across the UK and NZ, focusing her career on conservation and academia, along with environmental consultancy. Her project work has spanned all sizes and scope, from small rural developments up to large urban expansions.
Maddy brings years of fieldwork and ecological surveying experience to Rural Design and she is a skilled surveyor of flora, avifauna, herpetofauna, bats and aquatic organisms. A key focus in her role is spatial analysis and mapping, and she has a comprehensive understanding of ArcGIS and QGIS programmes.
Clients appreciate how she can present land-use maps and academia at a practical and accurate level. She is also adept at identifying ways to meet the funding criteria for national and regional programmes such as 1 Billion Trees. Having vast experience working with District and Regional Councils in the Auckland and Northland regions, Maddy is able to steer your project to the most appropriate funding stream.
A love of travel and the great Kiwi outdoors is keeping this talented ecologist happy when she is not busy advocating for our natural environment during work hours.
Senior Ecologist and Restoration Manager
In early 2018, Jack joined Rural Design as the Senior Ecologist and Restoration Manager where his primary role is to work alongside industry leaders to co-ordinate ecological assessment and large scale restoration projects for both public and private sectors.
With a degree in Applied Science specialising in Biodiversity Management, Jack has forged a career in arboricultural planning, restoration ecology and botany. As a skilled botanist on the committee of the Auckland Botanical Society, he has a special interest in invasive, offshore island and threatened species and his findings are frequently published.
Jack’s life-long passion for the natural environment and restoring land can be attributed to his upbringing on Great Barrier Island. He has a keen interest in the principles of kaitiakitanga and the protection of native flora and fauna. Bringing years of experience in plant identification, he also works closely with the nursery team to ensure accurate identification and quality seed collection.
The perfect day off for Jack involves the ocean, with surfing and fishing on repeat!
Council Ponds Leader
Martin’s responsibilities at Rural Design are multi-faceted including landscaper, planter and sprayer. But more than the daily tasks at hand, he is well respected for his organisational skills and reliability to run a job smoothly. He is adept at helping colleagues troubleshoot problems and is a great listener.
Before joining Rural Design, Martin was a boat builder, had a furniture business, and quite unique to plants – was a horologist! All of these life skills are beneficial to his busy role at Rural Design.
Outside of the 9-5, Martin enjoys working on his plot of land – planting and growing trees. He is also an avid sailor.
Lance is thriving in a career change from Chef to Nursery Manager! However, the same calm head he brought to a decade in the kitchen, is now applied to leading a dynamic team. Management of this busy division requires ongoing training and staying abreast of health & safety regulations.
Strong communication is a requirement in his role, and Lance believes that leading by example, having empathy and recognising people’s different skills, is the right approach to getting the best performance from all.
Outside of work, Lance is found chilling with whānau, playing rugby for the mighty Otamatea Hawks or on the Kaipara catching a few snapper.
Ben brings excellent communication and an even temperament to his role as a foreman for Rural Design. Along with a cool and calm demeanour at work, he has also achieved his National Certificate in Horticulture, Level 4 Advanced Amenity Horticulture.
He describes his day to day output as ‘creating forests’ and enjoys any opportunity to incorporate sustainable streetscape work into a project. Before joining Rural Design, Ben spent 12 years maintaining Council gardens.
The team appreciates his excellent communication skills and dedication to every project. When not at the Rural Design helm, Ben is found fishing or working on his “life sentence” (lifestyle) block!
Darren Van Beek
Project Manager & Iwi Liaison
When Darren originally applied for a position at Rural Design, management was so impressed by his enthusiasm and alignment with Rural Design’s purpose and values it was decided that a role had be created for him.
Darren is now working as a Project Manager and Iwi Liaison for Rural Design. A highly organised individual Darren is the link between workers on site, clients, ecology and the general manager. Darren has learnt rapidly in the short time he has been at RD and his passion for Kaitiakitanga shines through in everything he does. Fluent in Te Reo, Darren is also working with local Iwi to aid them in their own native planting projects. Darren is a collaborative worker, that aims to get the best out of everyone he works with or for.
Darren has a variety of activities he loves to pursue, including surfing, Jiu Jitsu, all while balancing the family life requirements of being dad to his young daughter and his partner.
SEED COLLECTION & PROPOGATION MANAGER
Elizabeth (Liz) to her friends and comrades arrived at rural Design in 2017. Liz has travelled extensively and brings a world of life experience to her role. This includes working in the criminology field in her homeland Canada. She is known for her strong work ethic and leadership within the Nursery Division.
Since her introduction to native plants, Liz has developed a passion for how they grow and where they come from, helping to spearhead Rural Design’s efforts to accurately source, locate and record where seed is coming from. Liz works closely with Lance, Dani and the Ecology division to ensure the seed is correctly identified and that seed quantities are meeting the demands required for Rural Design’s planting projects and that of other large implementation companies.
Liz’s role is to collect seed according to the natural cycle of each native plant that is propagated from seed. This can be tricky at times as certain species can have no seed in a calendar year or ripen early or late due to New Zealand’s erratic climate patterns. Liz also assists in the selection of cutting species and where to find them.
Outside of work Liz enjoys time at the beach and exploring new parts of New Zealand with her young family.
Tess arrived at Rural Design at a crucial time earlier this year, where the administration team needed assistance dealing with a growing company. Despite COVID hitting straight after she arrived, she toiled through. She is now a valued member of Rural Design, dealing with Health and Safety, procurement, invoicing and utilising her excellent people skills and communication in dealing with HR issues.
Tess brings a wealth of experience to her position and along with Marilyn is the fulcrum of communication within Rural Design.
In her spare time Tess loves catching up with friends, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or popping out on the boat with her husband Darren.