Wellington City Council (WCC) manages around 3,500 hectares of open space, and Irai Edwin and the rest of the arborist team are charged with looking after all the trees on that land – and that’s a lot of trees!

Irai Edwin is one of the Council's amazing Tree Team
Arborist Irai Edwin

The arborist’s job is made up of two parts, the reactive work which is in response to approved residential requests for work to be done to Council trees, and proactive work if trees need to be pruned, or removed if there’s a safety issue or they’re affecting utilities or the road corridor. With so many trees and requests, the Tree Team do the power lines and road clearance work first.

Being outdoors hanging from trees all day may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for Irai, it’s his dream job, and he can’t imagine doing anything else – most of the time!

“The job is part abseiling, part rock climbing, and a bit of foresting, and if there’s a storm blowing the excitement levels can get even higher, but sometimes when it has been raining for weeks it’s awful and you just want to be home and dry,” admits Irai.

It’s not all about trees though: “I work with amazing people, have amazing bosses, they’re all mates, and as a born and bred Wellingtonian it’s great working for the city too.”

WCC does prune trees on city land at residents’ request if it’s obstructing footpaths or needs clearing from power cables and street lighting – but not because they’re blocking a view, losing leaves, or casting shade on a property.

“At the coalface a resident may come out and have a chat, and sometimes they need a bit of information about how trees grow and react, and about the scope of work the Tree Team is delivering – but we’re always professional and use the knowledge and experience we have to deal with every situation.”

Irai admits he was a bit of a tearaway when he was a teenager and didn’t like school, so when his mum spoke to someone in Parks and Gardens and asked if there was any work for him and he was offered a gardening job, he jumped at the chance – and the arborist job came pretty soon after that.

“That was 24 years ago, and things were quite different, everything was on the job training – back then it was a case of who you know, these days it’s what you know!” laughs Irai.

“A few years on they made things more formal, got more health and safety conscious and now arborists are highly skilled with a recognised qualification.”

The Council’s Tree Team is one of the few approved contractors within the industry and are authorised through the New Zealand Arboriculture Association (NZAA).

As well as having qualifications, there’s also a big physical element to the job so it’s good to stay fit as it makes it easier and more enjoyable, according to Irai.

“I train for triathlons, swim in the harbour, use the local pools, cycle to work, so I really make the most of all that Wellington has to offer!”

With so much land to monitor and maintain around the whole of Wellington, some would say Irai and the team must be out of their trees, but he’d disagree.

“I pretty much fell into the job but now I wouldn’t go anywhere else – it’s great, we do it all, from planting to removing trees, and everything in between.”

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