Choosing a Consulting Arborist
A consulting arborist works in a private practice to undertake tree assessment and provide specialist arboricultural advice, usually in reports. Government agencies, local councils and the courts generally acknowledge a Diploma of Arboriculture, recognised as a level 5 qualification in the Australian Qualifications Framework, AQF5, as the minimum acceptable qualification for arborists who write formal reports.
You have been asked for an Arborist Report, a Tree Report or an Arboricultural Impact Assessment?
Consulting arborists often prepare these reports for clients with respect to trees for a range of reasons. If you intend to engage a consulting arborist to write a report, check what qualifications are required by the organisation to which the report will be submitted (e.g. your local Council, the Land & Environment Court, etc.), and ensure you engage someone who satisfies their requirements.
A qualification does not always guarantee experience. There are various roles and jobs an AQF Level 5 arborist may perform. Ensure that the experience of the arborist you select matches the task you require from them. For example some councils require at least 5 years of experience for arborist reports.
Reports for councils usually relate to applications for tree removal or development impact assessments. Councils usually set criteria upon which any decision to remove a tree is based. These criteria, which usually include risk from the tree, poor condition of the tree and damage caused by the tree, should be addressed by the consulting arborist in their report. Tree risk assessment should always be based on an industry accepted tree risk assessment methodology. Damage to infrastructure may need to be investigated by a specialist from another discipline, often a structural engineer or similar, in consultation with the arborist.
A consulting arborist should always have adequate professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance. If they are a company or work for a company they must have workers compensation. Don’t be afraid to ask to see a Certificate of Currency for each policy.
Terms of the Agreement
You should be clear about your brief to the consulting arborist. If a council or a court has requested an arboricultural report, provide the consulting arborist with a copy of the letter. Ensure the brief is clearly understood and agreed by both parties. The consulting arborist may provide a written agreement for you to sign, and / or you should provide your brief in writing. You may like to request the consulting arborist to guarantee that their report will be a standard that is acceptable to the relevant body.
Some consulting arborists only consult – they do not perform physical tree work such as pruning or removal. Other arborists may combine physical tree work and arboricultural consulting in their business. You should be aware of the potential real or perceived conflict of interest that arises when both activities are combined, especially if the arborist gains works as a result of their own recommendations.
Where do I find a Consulting Arborist?
There are two industry associations in Australia that endorse consulting arborists.
1. The Institute of Australian Consulting Arboriculturists (IACA) www.iaca.org.au has Accredited Members who:
- have AQF Level 5 qualification in arboriculture, or equivalent,
- agree to the IACA code of ethics,
- have minimum $2 million professional indemnity insurance cover,
- undertake ongoing professional education and development, and
- do not undertake pruning or removal of trees (this is seen as a conflict of interest where the arborist may recommend tree removal or pruning that is not necessary).
2. Arboriculture Australia (AA) www.arboriculture.org.au has Registered Consulting Arborists who:
- have a minimum qualification of Diploma of Arboriculture (AQF Level 5),
- have minimum $5 million professional indemnity and $20 million public liability insurance cover, and
- may undertake pruning and removal of trees as well as consulting.