Dunedin arborist Mark Roberts (44) will be the first
Australasian president of an international society
promoting trees and the "sexy" industry of arboriculture.
Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A Dunedin arborist will represent more than 20,000 of his
peers worldwide who are working in the understaffed, underpaid
but "sexy" industry of arboriculture.
Arborist and horticulture academic director Mark Roberts (44)
said he was the second non-American elected to lead
Illinois-based organisation the International Society of
Before being elected president this month, he had worked with
the 88-year-old society since 2004, he said.
The society promoted arboriculture and the benefits of trees.
"It is not about home-spun hippies hugging trees. It's about
trees as assets, the realisation of the importance of trees."
Although the society's head office had 40 full-time staff in
Champaign, Illinois, he would remain in Dunedin for the
governance role. However, he would attend meetings in the US
city twice a year and the annual conference, which was in a
different country each year, he said.
As president, he would build a more strategic board, because
it was very operational and tied up in detail. "There's not
enough time for the board to deal with detail."
Trees were more valued in America than in New Zealand, he
"In America, they get very excited about the tree asset. In
New Zealand, we see them as a thing that grows fast and
they're everywhere, but in larger cities, you don't see
green. There's just no space for foliage."
Most of the 2000 arborists in New Zealand were male,
especially with climbing arborists, because it was physically
demanding, he said.
More arborists, male and female, were needed but workers were
underpaid and required up to four years' practical training.
A trained climbing arborist made about $25 an hour.
Even though better technology and techniques had pushed
arborists' retirement date out by a decade, the physical work
took a toll on the body, he said.
"There's not many climbing arborists in their late 30s."
He climbed commercially for about 15 years around the world
and was never short of work, he said.
"There is such a shortage of arborists that if you have a
permit, you can get a job ... I've always found it a very
"As a climbing arborist, it's just great. It's energetic and
perceived as sexy - there's harnesses and chainsaws and lots
of guys running around doing heroic stuff."
Christchurch could easily "gobble up" another 20 arborists
and Queenstown and Central Otago needed more, but Dunedin was
all right, he said.
Dunedin was rural enough that most residents knew someone
with a chainsaw and a do-it-yourself attitude.
But untrained arborists could do irreparable damage to a tree
or themselves, he said.
"There's the danger factor. More people die through
chainsaw-related injuries in New Zealand than firearms."