An arborist knows everything there is to know about trees and works hard to keep them in good shape. One person who is thoroughly familiar with arboriculture challenges is former World Champion and tenfold Australian Champion, Kiah Martin. She is a Victorian arborist based in Melbourne, but she travels nationwide for work and industry events. We asked her why she chose to become an arborist.
“I first came into contact with trees as a career during a bushland rehabilitation project in the early 1990s. This interaction piqued my interest in the field of arboriculture and in the late nineties I embarked on further industry-based study at Burnley College in Victoria.
“The course inevitably required climbing trees and despite my early belief that getting from ‘that branch to that branch’ just couldn’t be done, I managed to ‘go out on a limb’ and realise that in fact it could. I succeeded in completing my ‘tree training’ and went on to manage the trees at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and Cranbourne for just over ten years.
“I had several other jobs before and after this but ultimately my own small business venture, TreeStyle Pty Ltd, has kept me very busy throughout that period (part-time) and ever since–.
“I have been living and working in Melbourne for nearly twenty years and have been incredibly fortunate during this time to work with some of the most renowned tree climbers and tree industry people here in Victoria, across the country and throughout the world.
“I am currently working for all manner of private clients, contracting out my services, working with arboriculture students at certificate level and still volunteering my time for the many and varied organisations I have been lucky enough to be involved with over these past two decades.”
How would you describe your working environment?
"The Great Outdoors! My work is rather varied and ranges from a combination of ground and aerial work including tree climbing and plant and equipment operation, to tutoring and instruction delivered to arboriculture students; volunteering for industry organisations running recreational tree-climbing activities, to committee memberships discussing and debating the benefits of trees and their worth and importance in the community.”
Which are the main challenges in working with tree maintenance services in Australia?
"Weather; variations in operator skill and experience; challenging client expectations; and sometimes there are not enough hours of daylight in the day!”
What are the most important factors for you being able to do a good job?
“Thorough pre-planning and job clarity from the outset. Followed by climbing skills, technical competence and attention to detail within the canopy. The efficiency and effectiveness of a switched-on ground crew are also important. And of course, a thorough and well thought-out clean-up by the whole crew upon completion of the job.”
Climbing trees working while with chainsaws must be a challenge from the viewpoint of safety?
“It certainly is, that is why I wear high-visibility clothing all the way, with robust chainsaw protective trousers and a hardwearing jacket that wears comfortably in most weather conditions. Solid climbing shoes in the canopy and strong work boots for all the groundwork. The usual safety helmet with ear protection and preferably in high-visibility or bold colours. Safety glasses are matched for the conditions (amber, smoke or polarised) and I generally never work without gloves.”
What would an ordinary working day for Kiah Martin look like?
“An ‘ordinary day’ on the tools might consist of a 7:30 am start on site. The crew rolls in and we have a walkaround of the job and discuss all the necessary work and any peculiar items on the job sheet or special set-ups required. We all sign off and get moving to whichever trees or sites have been assigned. We work closely as a team and communicate clearly.
“Whenever possible, noise is kept to a minimum and everyone works carefully and efficiently with whatever fleet equipment suits the task at hand. The day will usually involve extensive tree climbing so specific access set-ups, climbing kits and rigging scenarios are involved, several climbing/ground saws and large plant and machinery, and inevitably we have to deliver our by-product for reuse in the garden of another client nearby.
“Lunch will often coincide with a mulch delivery followed up by more of the same until we complete our mission, thoroughly tidy the site, check in with the client to ensure total satisfaction, and then travel back to our starting point. Having said that, most days are extraordinary – because the crews are awesome and the work is always challenging!”
What is your most valuable working tool?
“That would be a throw cube (Faltheimer), complete with throw line and three throw bags (Harrison Rocket). A very close second would be my top-handled chainsaw (Husqvarna T540XP) that can handle almost all the work of a good-size removal.”
What does the Husqvarna brand mean to you?
“Strong heritage, robust partnerships and leading-edge technology. But also a genuine commitment to modern equipment, dedication to the industry and reliable equipment under all circumstances. For me, that is the Husqvarna brand.”
Around the world arborists compete to prove their skills and professionalism. Kiah Martin is one of the highest ranked arborists in the world and her track record speaks for itself. She has been recognized and won numerous prices both in the International Tree Climbing Championships (ITCC), Asia Pacific Tree Climbing Championships (APTCC) and Australian Tree Climbing Championships (ATCC).