Arborist Kaitiaki Rākau

Arborists plant and remove trees, prune branches and treat disease.

Arborists may do some or all of the following:

  • identify, inspect, maintain, prune, plant and move trees
  • identify and remove hazards created by trees
  • assess trees for potential risks
  • use and maintain abseiling equipment to climb trees
  • operate EWPs (elevated work platforms), chippers, chainsaws and trucks
  • give advice on trees suitable for planting or removal, and tree care
  • give advice on treatments for pests and diseases
  • plan and carry out pest and disease management.

Utility arborists will also clear trees and vegetation from around powerlines.

Physical Requirements

Arborists need to have excellent fitness and must be strong to lift trees and branches. Arborists must be comfortable working at heights.

They should also have good balance, hand-eye co-ordination, hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses).

Useful Experience

Useful experience for arborists includes:

  • horticulture or gardening work
  • climbing with ropes 
  • customer service
  • working at heights.

Personal Qualities

Arborists need to be:

  • practical 
  • able to follow and give clear instructions
  • able to keep calm in risky situations
  • good at communicating with a wide range of people
  • alert and observant, with an eye for detail
  • safety conscious and responsible
  • good at planning and organising.


Arborists need to have knowledge of:

  • plant and soil biology, tree species identification and pest and disease control
  • tree planting, pruning and landscaping techniques
  • tree climbing and tree removal techniques
  • operating chainsaws, rigging and climbing equipment, EWPs and chippers
  • safe work practices and first aid.



  • may work nights and weekends and on call
  • work outside on private properties, roadsides, parks and farms
  • may work in hazardous conditions in bad weather and at heights.

Subject Recommendations

A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include agriculture and horticulture, and biology.

Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the horticulture industry, and study towards a National Certificate in Agriculture or Horticulture (Level 1 or 2), with a Trades Academy.

Year 12 and 13 students can learn more about the horticulture industry, and gain NCEA unit standards, through the Primary ITO Gateway programme.

Arborists can earn around $23-$25 per hour.

Chances of getting a job as a Arborist are good due to a shortage of people interested in this type of work.

Pay for arborists varies depending on their experience and skills.

  • New arborists usually start on the minimum wage.
  • Arborists with one to four years' experience usually earn between minimum wage and $25 an hour.
  • Arborists with more than five years' experience can earn between $25 and $35 an hour.

Self-employed arborists may earn more than this.

Source: New Zealand Arboricultural Association, 2021; and Hamilton City Council, 2018.

Arborists may progress to set up their own arboriculture business, or move into supervisory or management roles.

Arborists may also progress to become consultants on tree disease and risk management, or on planning trees for public spaces.

Arborists may specialise in:

  • climbing – using equipment to climb and prune trees
  • diagnostics – identifying and treating tree diseases
  • EWP operation – using an elevated work platform to prune trees
  • utility arboriculture – pruning and clearing trees near power lines or cables.

Years Of Training

1-3 years of training usually required.

To become an arborist you need to complete one of:

  • a New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture Services (Level 4) with a strand in aboriculture
  • an apprenticeship to gain a New Zealand Certificate in Primary Industry Skills (Horticulture)(Arboriculture)(Level 4).

You need to have a full driver's licence and pass drug and alcohol tests.

A Class 2 truck licence and a First Aid Certificate are useful.