From professionals

On top of her game – Kiah Martin on being one of the best arborists in the world

Remember when you were a child and climbed trees? Some people keep climbing and become arborists. Some of them become the best in the world. One member of that elite group is Kiah Martin, a world champion winning arborist based in Melbourne. This is her story.

“I first came in contact with trees as a career during a bushland rehabilitation project in the early nineties. This interaction piqued my interest in the field of arboriculture and in the late nineties I embarked on further industry-based studies at Burnley College in Victoria.

“I thought that getting from that branch to that simply couldn’t be done. But in fact – it could!”

“The course inevitably required climbing trees and despite my initial 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 in 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.”

“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’m currently working for all sorts 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 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 instructing arboriculture students, committee membership discussing and debating around the benefits of trees and their worth and importance in the community.”

“I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the most renowned tree climbers and tree industry people across the country and throughout the world.”

Which are the main challenges in working with tree maintenance in Australia?

“The weather, variations in operator skill and experience, challenging client expectations and sometimes that there aren’t enough hours of daylight in the day.”

What are the most important factors for you to be able to do a good job?

“Thorough 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 is also important. And of course, a thorough and well thought-out clean-up by the whole crew upon completion of the job.”

Is it a challenge, safety-wise, to work with chainsaws while climbing trees?

“It certainly is. That’s 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. I also wear solid climbing shoes in the canopy, strong work boots for all the groundwork and the usual safety helmet with ear protection and preferably in high-visibility or bold colours. Safety glasses are matched with the conditions – amber, smoke or polarised – and I generally never work without gloves.”

What would an ordinary day look like for Kiah Martin?

“An ‘ordinary day’ on the tools might start at 7:30 am on site. The crew rolls in and we have a walk-around of the job and discuss all the necessary work and any peculiar items on the job sheet or special setups 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 climbing kits and rigging scenarios are involved, including several climbing and ground saws and large 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 by more of the same until we complete the 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 from Faltheimer, complete with throw line and three throw bags from Harrison Rocket. A very close second would be my top-handled chainsaw, the 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.”

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 recognised and won numerous prizes both in the International Tree Climbing Championship (ITCC), the Asia Pacific Tree Climbing Championship (APTCC) and the Australian Tree Climbing Championship (ATCC).

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