THE WA Tree Climbing Championship are being held at Point Walter today (Saturday October 22) with arborists celebrating a recent upgrade in their status; something they hope spells the end of shonky tree loppers.
About two months ago arboriculture was recognised as a trade in Western Australia for the first time, with a Certificate III available for those with a head for heights.
ArbWest vice president Kelvin Ussher, who’s been busy trying to find the perfect tree for today’s championships, says getting the official status as a tradie means customers can ask for an aborist’s ticket and have confidence they’re getting qualified advice.
“We provide a lot of advice and try to educate people on correct pruning techniques,” Mr Ussher said.
“That means that if someone knocks on your door and says to do it the wrong way, you’re more likely to pick them up as a scammer.
“We hope that this will wipe them out.
“But we are hoping to be like England and Europe eventually, where you can’t even buy an arborist’s saw unless you have a qualification.”
Mr Ussher said most of today’s 35 competitors will be arborists, with three locals rated in the top 15 in the country. There are also 20 national competitors going for a different prize pool, with $13,000 on the line.
The championship has five events, including the throw-line, which is “like a fishing line that has a sandbag on it and you have to get it through a tight spot”.
There’s also the ascent which will see the competitors climb to 22 metres in less than 10 seconds; “like sprinting up a tree.
“Probably the most spectacular is the work climb, where there are five stations and the timer goes off, and they’re swinging around the tree, flipping around it and it takes about 4.5 minutes,” Mr Ussher said.
Finding the right tree can be tricky.
“The tree we are using is a smooth bark, because ropes don’t get caught up as much, and the guys have less grip – so it’s more difficult.
“It’s tall but quite wide, because to go out onto the side of a tree can be quite difficult.”
In one of the events, the competitors have to work their way onto a branch without letting a plumbob move.
Mr Ussher says they get a lot of rock climbers moving into the job, but they’ve also got a free climbing wall today to let the next generation of arborists have a go. There’s also food trucks, face painting and a stall from the primary industries department about the shot-hole borer.
The day kicks off at 7am, but Mr Ussher reckons the most spectacular climbing will start from 9am, while the events wind up at 1.30pm before the best of the best compete for the masters.
It’s all on Heritage Drive near the big blue tree (which they’re not climbing).
by STEVE GRANT