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Kiwi arborists back on top

Kiwi arborists back on top

In 2011, New Zealand arborists achieved the remarkable feat of winning the men’s, women’s and team world titles in competitive tree climbing.  Now, in the 2013 event that has just taken place in Toronto, Canada, they’ve done it again. 

The sport has its origins in professional arboriculture, with most competitors being practicing tree surgeons.  The format is similar in concept to the pentathlon in track and field, with five separate disciplines giving competitors a cumulative points score.  Top scoring climbers then go on to compete in a “climb-off” (known as the Master’s Event) in a particularly challenging tree to decide the final placings.  The competitions provide members of the arboricultural and climbing communities the opportunity to meet, compete and share their technical know-how.

New Zealander Scott Forrest, the 2011 World Champion and the current Asia Pacific Champion, regained his world title at the event, and compatriot Nicky Ward-Allen (current New Zealand women’s champion) won the women’s title for the first time.  Also competing was James Kilpatrick, the current New Zealand men’s champion and former Asia Pacific champion, who finished third overall. 

In addition, James and Nicky won the head to head footlock event – a timed 15 metre ascent up a free-hanging rope.  Perhaps not surprisingly, on the strength of these performances New Zealand took out the overall team prize, seeing off competition from the USA, Europe, Australia and beyond.

“This is a wonderful success,” says New Zealand Arboricultural Association President Bruce MacDonald.  “It’s great to emulate our results from 2011 and have all three titles back in New Zealand, and it shows that our climbers are consistently among the best in the world.”

New Zealand’s pedigree in the event goes back to 2005, when Chrissy Spence won the first of her three world titles.  Since then New Zealand arborists have regularly picked up world and regional titles, as well as records in individual disciplines.

“The treble in 2011 was unprecedented – to repeat it puts us in uncharted territory,” says Mr MacDonald.  “We also have a New Zealander as President Elect of the International Society of Arboriculture, so you could say this is a golden age for our industry.”

Throughout the year the New Zealand Arboricultural Association, sponsored by Husqvarna, stages regional climbing events, with the top climbers then going on to compete in a national event.  This is held each year as part of the Association’s annual conference, and the overall men’s and women’s winners, with support from Asplundh and Treescape, are then eligible to represent the New Zealand Chapter at the Words.  The dates and locations of these events can be found on the NZ Arb website:

“If you have never seen one of these events before they are well worth checking out,” says Mr MacDonald.  “The skill level is amazing and you might catch a world champion in action.”

NZ climbing team


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