Tree-man scales new job at Taratahi

By Nathan Crombie nathan.crombie@age.co.nz -
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Richard Wanhill, former competitive tree-climber and arboriculture educator, is the new business development manager at Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Richard Wanhill, former competitive tree-climber and arboriculture educator, is the new business development manager at Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Past competitive tree-climber and arborist Richard Wanhill has returned to his primary sector roots, he says, with his appointment as business development manager at Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre.

Mr Wanhill, who shifted to Wairarapa from the capital after originally hailing from Auckland, had worked as an arborist for about 15 years and also operated as a contract arboriculture and horticulture educator as a partner in a company named Thought Planters.

"I was teaching arboriculture mostly in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore and some in other places like Cambodia and Thailand. The competitive tree-climbing I've done has been only nationally in New Zealand, which is internationally recognised as one of the top tree-climbing countries in the world.

"We've had many world champions including, I think, five women's titles and three in the men's. So it's the best place on the planet to start climbing trees for sure."

Mr Wanhall had branched out to the sport from his career in arboriculture.

People working in the industry had started organising social tree-climbing competitions before the contests in New Zealand turned regional, national and international as fully-fledged sporting events.

"Globally it really took off from there and the best trees to climb in my opinion are big pohutukawa or oak trees. Anything with big, spreading canopies are better to climb. But it comes down to the type of climbing.

"Some trees like Norfolk pine and redwoods are very tall, so you're climbing for the height, and other trees are wide and spreading and it's a different sort of climbing, you're climbing up and around as opposed to just up.

"It was a natural thing that competition came from the social side of climbing.

"People in arboriculture were climbing trees all day, every day, with ropes and harnesses and chainsaws, and socially they got together and set each other climbing challenges. And it's not always about the speed, it often can be about the trickiness of what you want to do."

Now Mr Wanhill only climbs trees recreationally and came to Taratahi from a post at WelTec. He started at Taratahi earlier this month and was relishing the opportunity to work in primary sector education again.

"I was working in Thought Planters before Weltec, which was a slightly more urban education, and Taratahi is about getting back to the primary sector, my roots to use an arborist pun, which is where the real length and breadth of my experience comes from."

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