Contractor profile: Northland Vegetation Control

A Northland couple whose business has been recognised for its ‘exemplary’ health and safety practices says it all links back to staff wellbeing

The Campbell family behind Northland Vegetation Control

Chance and Rochelle Campbell place high priority on their team culture and business practices, and their dedication has seen them officially recognised.

The couple have been at the helm of Northland Vegetation Control (NVC) for the past five years and recently won the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) Injury Prevention Award at the 2023 Northland Business Excellence Awards. They were also a finalist in the medium-sized business category.

The award recognises a business and its leaders that have implemented a workplace injury prevention initiative, improvement, or innovation that has had a meaningful and positive impact on workplace injury prevention through improved health, safety, or wellbeing for their workers.

“We never thought we would compare with other businesses in Northland,” Rochelle says.

“The awards process has been an eye-opener, and it has been rewarding. It has helped us look at the company to see how we can make it
even better.”

NVC, which is Hikurangi-based but moving shortly to the couple’s property west of Kamo, specialises in agricultural, lifestyle, forestry, and general weed spraying.

NVC planted more than 120,000 trees last season

More recently, Chance and Rochelle have integrated poplar pole planting and riparian planting into the winter and autumn months to complement the usual spray programmes.

The couple bought the business in 2018, after the previous owner, Chance’s father Richard Campbell, passed away. Chance had been working as a linesman at Northpower for the previous nine years and Rochelle as a paediatric nurse.

“Richard had a rough time of it, battling through droughts and the recession and struggled to make it profitable,” Rochelle says. “When we took over, the first thing we noticed was that there was literally no income in the winter.

“When Richard passed away, Chance ended up taking six months unpaid leave from his job at Northpower to see whether the business was viable.”

A chance conversation with a manager at Pamu Farming (Landcorp), one of their biggest clients, led to NVC investigating the possibility of establishing a poplar planting arm of the business.

“We were keen to take on anything,” Rochelle says. “Chance did a bit of research and made some equipment to help the planting process and we planted 300 poplars on Pamu farms. Then, we did the neighbour’s farm and word spread that we were planting poplars. We went from planting 300 poplars that first year to planting 30,000 last season.”

Staff wellbeing and team culture are paramount to Chance and Rochelle Campbell of NVC


Chance and Rochelle have individual and complementary roles within the company. With his excellent knowledge of weeds and the Northland growing environment and conditions, Chance manages the overall running of the company. He does both work out in the field and in the yard, keeping the business running smoothly, quoting jobs, and sorting work for the team.

Rochelle works behind the scenes managing the administration side of the business, such as accounts, payroll, Health and Safety, and administration. She’s also key in the organisation of the day-to-day worklists and who is assigned to which job. She also takes care of the couple’s three children: Mackenzie (10), Finn (8), and Marlow (6).

Chance’s brother Trale has also recently taken on a more managerial role within the company, overseeing the majority of the native planting and weed management on Pamu farms in Northland.

NVC has 10 permanent staff year-round, with an extra eight or so backpackers hired to plant trees in the busy winter months

Year-round workload

At the heart of NVC’s services is spraying and weed control. From September to April, the business undertakes a variety of spraying jobs for many different companies and clients, including local councils and schools, farmers, lifestyle block owners, and both large forestry companies and private forest block owners, as well as larger entities, such as Pamu Farming Ltd (Landcorp), Department of Conservation (DOC), and North Power.

Boom spraying services include pasture, spray-outs, pre-emergent and post-emergent spraying, insecticide, gorse, and liquid fertiliser.

The NVC team delivers a quality boom spraying service with their purpose-built Mitsubishi Canter, Nissan Patrol, and Landcruiser, which are fitted with the latest Teejet nozzles, a seven-section auto boom shut-off for precision spraying and the latest Topcon X25 GPS with built-in rate controller. NVS is also pro at undertaking gun spraying and getting rid of noxious weeds, gorse, blackberry and ratstail along farm races, driveways, sections, and drain edges.

Shade Planting

“There is no size limit to our jobs — they can never be too big or too small,” Chance says.
To complement the spraying season, NVC’s planting season starts in April through until September, with the poplar planting area stretching from Northland down to Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, and Levin.

In addition to poplar pole planting, NVC has also diversified into riparian and native tree planting.

“We can provide a full service, including pre-spray, plants, stakes, fertiliser tabs, labour, and release spray, or just a planting crew to get the plants in the ground,” Chance says. “Last year, we planted more than 120,000 natives and some oak trials for Pamu as well.”

NVC also maintains existing poplars and riparian areas throughout the year with release spraying and keeping noxious weeds at bay.

Pruning Poplars

Future planning

With the development of the business to provide a diverse income stream year-round, it has not only grown exponentially but also means Chance and Rochelle are able to employ full-time, year-round workers, avoiding the pitfalls of retraining and rehiring every season.

They currently have 10 permanent staff year-round, with an extra eight or so backpackers hired to plant trees in the busy winter months.

“Hiring people from many different countries and backgrounds — including lawyers, nurses, managers — was so good for staff morale last winter and created such a positive working environment,” Rochelle says.

“Many just wanted to come and plant trees in New Zealand for the feel-good factor. Our kids loved it, too.”

The importance Chance and Rochelle places on staff wellbeing and a positive work environment was celebrated late last year when they won the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) Injury Prevention Award at the 2023 Northland Business Excellence Awards.

The judges heaped praise on the couple for their ‘exemplary’ health and safety processes.

Planting poplars can help with erosion control and hillside stabilisation

“Rochelle’s nursing background has enabled her to implement exemplary health and safety processes and procedures in the business. Chance and his brother Trale provide one-on-one training to upskill their workers on the risks around chemical, environmental, transport, planting equipment, and procedures is paramount.

“As some of their clients are large, private, and government-owned organisations, the importance of having good health and safety processes and procedures is paramount.

“Rochelle and Chance are focused on creating an environment where staff are engaged and want to come to work. They do this by taking a holistic approach to their staff’s wellbeing, such as providing a social area where staff can play pool and darts during breaks or after work, and arranging digital connectivity when staff are away in remote areas. NVC also contribute to their local community by being involved in and sponsoring community events and initiatives.”

Brothers Chance and Trale Campbell undertake regular training with NVC staff

Rochelle says it was out of their comfort zone to enter the business awards, but it has inspired them to continue making decisions that have a positive impact on their staff, which
is what has made them so successful in the first place.

“For us, health and safety has a lot to do with staff wellbeing,” Rochelle says. “And that reflects in our work. We pride ourselves on doing a good job — being customer-focused, punctual, and knowledgeable.”

Chance and Rochelle have been working with Vicki Moselen from Business Coaching NZ (Northland) who has helped them firm up business plans for the future.

The couple were leasing the yard in Hikurangi from which the business was based, which limited their growth. To give them room to expand, they recently bought a new home with more land on which they will base the yard, building infrastructure to support it.

Boom spraying is a key service offered by NVC

“We have grown really fast in the past three to four years, so our advisor has told us to stick to our knitting and work on streamlining the processes we have in place,” Rochelle says. “I’d like to go back to nursing at some point so to have someone to help out in the office more would be great, but first, we need to continue streamlining the systems.”

Chance says this would include picking and choosing what they take on.

“There are always opportunities coming up, but we need to focus on good, long-term opportunities,” he says.

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