Become Master Painters NZ’s 2023 Apprentice of the Year

Ash Leatherby of Master Painters NZ explains what it takes


Master Painters NZ apprentice of the year competition has been running for over 50 years. It has evolved from apprentices painting panel boards at conference using decorative techniques like rag rolling, marbling, wood graining, gold leafing, spraying, brushing, and cutting in, all the way through to preparing and painting wooden playhouses for pre-school children that took apprentices three days to complete.

Now we have the apprentices repainting entire bedrooms, rooms, and sometimes ensuites for Hospice NZ. This takes the apprentice four days from mask up, through prep, to completion.

Master Painters NZ chooses apprentices from four regions in NZ. Upper North, Lower North, Upper South and Lower South. This gives us a good representation of apprentices throughout the country. In recent years, the demographics of the applicants has swayed more to females. With as many as four females taking out the top prize in the last five years.

To apply, the apprentice needs to have completed two years of their National Certificate in Painting & Decorating, and be completing the third stage, in the year they apply for the competition, and they can only apply once. Once we receive their application, I book in a day and time to assess the apprentices work and we have a discussion with them and their employer then they do a small quiz that relates to the painting & decorating trade.

Once we have assessed all apprentices and tally the scores, this gives us the top four apprentices for each region, sometimes there’s only a point’s difference. We then start the process for getting the apprentice their partner and two support people to conference in September of each year.

At Conference, the apprentices start their task of painting the hospice rooms over the duration of conference. We judge each room at the end, choose our winner, and announce them at the apprentice of the year dinner at conference, generously sponsored by Resene.

The apprentices form a strong bond with each other even though they are competing against each other at conference. They get to mingle with the members who pass on their experience and knowledge to them.

Applications are open now for 2023 apprentice of the year.

Download an application form here.