Reuben works as a municipal arborist for Wellington City Council – a role he landed through an apprenticeship programme offered by WCC.

When Reuben, now 27, left school at age 15, he studied horticulture and environmental science at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, which was fitting groundwork for starting his apprenticeship with the council.

These apprenticeships are three years long and are completed while working out in the field. The study is done through the New Zealand Horticulture Industry Training Organisation, where employees gain a Level 4 National Certificate in Aboriculture. Some Level 5 units can also be attained.

Now that Reuben is fully qualified, his days are spent climbing trees, taking care of storm damage, and clearing power lines.

He said when people see him up a tree they usually assume it’s being cut down, but that’s mostly not the case.

“It’s mostly pruning. Sometimes I’m up a huge tree with a tiny saw.”

The council’s arborists are responsible for maintaining trees around Wellington’s roads, parks, reserves, paper roads, and the town belt. They also lend a hand to some community groups around the city if pruning work is needed.

The council currently has a team of 10 arborists, who do their work as part of the Parks, Sport and Recreation department of WCC.

They are one of the only councils in New Zealand to have an in-house team of arborists – most of the others contract their work out to other companies.

“I love climbing and working for the council,” said Reuben. “Looking after the city means you take ownership. I grew up here and being able to take care of this place is awesome.”

It also allows for him to see much of the capital from a different perspective – the treetops.

Becoming an arborist opens the door to work around much of the world, as there is currently a global shortage.

Average pay

Arborists with one to five years’ experience usually earn $17–$24 per hour.

Experienced arborists with more than five years’ experience usually earn $25–$30 per hour.

(Source: Careers New Zealand) 

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