Lincoln graduates thriving in parks and recreation field

25 July 2022 | News

The parks and recreation field is proving to be a fruitful area of employment for Lincoln University graduates.

Three Lincoln alumni have taken up key roles at the Christchurch branch of Thrive Spaces and Places, a specialist parks and recreation consultancy focusing on strategic and management solutions, project and programme management, planning, assessments and evidence work.

Current Thrive contracts are concerned with converting 20ha of wasteland into a park, native regeneration of bees, korero with tangata whenua on cultural processes and advising councils on recreation infrastructure.

Thrive Principal Geoff Canham says the organisation offers full employment to graduates, who are paid to continue with their studies and discover “amazing projects they can lead and assist on”.

Senior Landscape Architect and South Island Office Manager Lucia Caves first joined the company on a summer internship three years ago after gaining her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture.

She then returned to Lincoln to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Parks, Recreation and Tourism and is now studying for a Master of Landscape Architecture with a focus on parks.

“I’ve always been interested in improving open spaces and Lincoln University armed me with the tools needed to articulate and inform my design process and understand the statutory processes driving open space development,” Lucia says.

“My role at Thrive is incredibly diverse, covering public open space and management, including site design, consultation, project management, landscape assessments, open space and cycle network planning.”

Lucia revels in helping community groups find a voice for what they want from open spaces.

“In the parks space, modern park projects are not just about playgrounds, but also about trails, green network connection, volunteer taiao environment projects and providing opportunities to reflect cultural identity,” she says.

The success of Lucia’s initiation into the Thrive whānau prompted Geoff to recruit two more of Lincoln’s best students to work at the company’s Christchurch branch.

Alexia Hamelink and Tina Weston were offered full-time contracts after completing their degrees last year.

Alexia returned to study after spending a decade owning and running a landscape design business, specialising in native plants. She was attracted to Lincoln’s two-year Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (Graduate Entry), which is the only degree of its kind in the country.

“Lincoln University has a fantastic reputation in the landscape architecture world,” she says. “After an initial summer pre-requisite course in visual communication, I knew this course would deliver everything I needed and more.”

Gaining a landscape architecture degree has given Alexia the confidence and ability to tackle a range of projects at Thrive, including “master plans for large spaces and places and reports and proposals for innovative interventions”.

“We work with a broad mix of clients, from council to resident, from corporate to community and my role is varied and covers many duties. The communication skills I learnt at Lincoln University have been crucial to the success of the projects,” she says.

“I enjoy the variety on offer at Thrive and can see my role constantly evolving as the business grows.”

Tina landed her dream job as an Open Space Planner at Thrive after graduating from Lincoln University with a Bachelor of Environmental Policy and Planning with Honours, majoring in Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

“I wanted study at Lincoln University due to its reputation for offering a combination of practical and theoretical learning,” she says.

“This added depth to my degree. I was attracted to the environmental policy and planning programme for the integration of strategic, legislative, environmental and practical elements.

“Getting practical experience through my major supported me in gaining an internship, which effectively led me to the full-time job at Thrive.”

Tina says the combination of skills that she developed at Lincoln provided her with a broad career base, allowing her to specialise in open space planning, but could also be used in environmental and urban contexts as well as other settings.

Her role at Thrive involves writing and developing plans and strategies, providing technical evidence and offering advice on specialised issues and broader subject areas. However, her primary inspiration is people.

“When you connect with communities, you have no idea how it’s going to go and new ideas always emerge. Parks are a democracy,” she says.

PHOTO: Lincoln University graduates Lucia Caves, Tina Weston and Alexia Hamelink are thriving in the parks and recreation sector.