Q&A: Joshua Symes

Arbor Day is coming up and this year it’s pretty special because Wellington has been announced as a Tree City of the World. This is awarded to cities with extensive tree cover, and good planting and management plans.

To celebrate this award, and Arbor Day in general, the Wellington City Council and the New Zealand Arboriculture Association are putting on a fun day of free tree climbing and nature activities at the Wellington Botanic Garden Ki Paekākā on Saturday 5 June.

We caught up with Joshua Symes, Manager Arboriculture at Wellington City Council, to find out what being an arborist actually entails.

What’s a “normal” day for an arborist?
It is a really difficult task to describe a “normal” day as an arborist but a good place to start for most of us is with a shot of caffeine or four! For some of us a day may involve surveying and assessing trees, determining what work needs to be done for the client. For others the day will involve working as part of a team of climbing arborists, working up in the canopy to prune or remove them wind rain or shine. For some it will involve working alongside local authorities, utility owners, architects and planners to deliver tree lined streets for the benefit of all. One thing for certain is that every day will be different.

What’s something people might not know about being an arborist?
Despite the fact we are most commonly known for cutting trees down, we are all deeply passionate about trees and will always advocate for alternatives to removing a tree where possible.

What’re the biggest challenges in your work?
There are quite a few. It’s certainly a physically and mentally challenging job. As you can imagine, spending all day in a 30m tree, hauling yourself up and around it all day long with a harness loaded with gear and a chainsaw and working out how to lower 500kg sections of trunk wood to the ground without causing any damage to what could be someone’s home directly below it is no simple feat. However, probably one of the most difficult challenges arborists face is dealing with situations where someone wants a perfectly healthy tree removed. Trying to foster a shift in mindset within us all whereby we can acknowledge that sometimes trees can cause a nuisance by casting shade or dropping leaves in gutters but perhaps that is just a very small price to pay for the enormous social, environmental and economic benefits provided by that very same tree. That is perhaps one of the greatest challenges many arborists face.

What do you love most about your job?
For me it’s about being able to look after and preserve Wellington’s urban forest. Being part of a great team that contributes to making Wellington the special place it is, is immensely rewarding.

What’s your best Wellington memory?
Climbing some of the Botanic Gardens most beautiful trees on sunny Wellington days.

What’s your go-to takeaways order?
Definitely a flat white and a ham and cheese toastie from Lyall Bay’s Diamond Deli.

What’s your favourite place in the wider Wellington region?
It may be pushing it but the Tararua ranges for sure.

What’s your biggest regret?
Probably not starting my career in arboriculture much earlier than I did.

Read more Q&As here.


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