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At the root of the scientific branch

By Carolyn Rance

An arborist could see the 'would' in the trees decades ago, writes Carolyn Rance.

Centennial Park celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. Opened on January 26, 1888, exactly 100 years after the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove, it was created as a green space where Sydney citizens could "take the air".

Thirteen years later, the park was chosen as the site for the signing and inauguration of Australia's Federation.

Now part of the 360-hectare Centennial Parklands area that includes Moore Park and Queens Park, Centennial Park is still a place where residents and tourists come to relax and enjoy formal European garden design with ponds, grand avenues and heritage buildings.

For many visitors, the main attractions are the park's historic trees - Norfolk pines, Port Jackson figs, holm oaks and melaleucas.

Caring for them has been both a career and a labour of love for senior arborist Ted Hoare, who began his horticultural career as a young council gardener in Broome financing a long surfing holiday. When he returned to Sydney, the former television repair technician continued garden work, studied horticulture at Ryde College, and then trained in tree care at Merrist Wood College, Britain.

He began work at Centennial Park 26 years ago, with the public service classification of tree surgeon. Soon afterwards an arborist classification was introduced and he became the first in the NSW public service.

Hoare says he was lucky to begin working with trees when arboriculture was becoming recognised as a science-based profession requiring more than a head for heights and ability to operate a chainsaw.

Today's practitioners need those skills plus a practical - and regularly reinforced - understanding of occupational health and safety, and the thorough knowledge of trees needed to promote longevity and influence choice of species.

Hoare has played his part in increasing the number of qualified arborists in the state, teaching and providing work experience to students from Ryde College. Qualified arborists can move into commercial work, consultancy or the public sector.

"Some of the people who have done their practical work here have become leading lights in arboriculture in Australia and some have worked as consultants overseas," he says.

"We encourage people to take pride in their work. Trees are like humans: they can be affected by disease or struck by lightning, and they need help to stay healthy."

Hoare is responsible for a database that values the park's trees annually and contains technical information on each one.

"It records all works, reports and photographs. Each tree has an identification number. It's funny that I will probably be remembered more for the database than the work I've done on the trees themselves."

The information assists with decisions on tree replacement and the development of planting plans.

Published: 19 January 2013

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