Tree Contractors Association of Australia celebrates 30 years

Tree Contractors Association of Australia (TCAA) is in its 30th year. Jim McArdle  has a look at the achievements of the presidents, and notes an upcoming change.

With the 30th anniversary of the Tree Contractors Association of Australia the executive has initiated a new status within the peak body to include the term ‘arboriculturists’.

To reflect a fairer version for the industry scope to move toward higher roles in Amenity Horticulture, the new name of the association is the Tree Contractors & Arborists Association Australia.

Besides people, trees are the most valuable resource contributing to green culture. Trees are also on the frontline of the environment and infrastructure development, and require more professional underpinning documentation supporting the tree-care industry.

The three key underpinning resources are:
1. The Australian Standards
• (2009) Tree Protection in Development Sites
• (2007) Pruning of Amenity trees
• (2013) Raw Mulch Order
• (2020) Treestock for Landscape Use.

2. Industry peer-produced documentation
• Tree management guidelines, preclimb & proactive tree risk assessment
• Code of practice
• Hazard workbooks

3. Key organisations which constrain poor practice in the industry are:
• Safe Work Australia
• Fair work Australia
• Councils
• Courts (Land and Environment and civil), and
• EPA.

The TCAA Pathways is a program to introduce school leavers to arboriculture s a career. Image: TCAA

The beginning

The TCAA was initiated in 1994 after storms ravaged most of the Australian coastline from 1992. The first meeting was held at Beacon Hill and a small committee was formed, including Murray Bolan and Mark Wilcox, who was elected president.

The membership numbers soon raced toward 300, with emergency work being included as a TCAA function. Mark Wilcox, with assistance of the committee, initiated the TCAA as pillar of the industry to allow for consistency of rates and pricing. The schedule of rates allowed tree contractors fairer ways of tendering and engaging subcontractors on pre-agreed pricing.

The TCAA was never about monopolisation. It was about developing a consistent arborist who was qualified, reputable and supported.

Mark Wilcox: 1994-1997

Mark, the first president, established the beachhead of the TCAA so as to allow for fairer industry practice and more exposure for association members as a body of experienced, qualified, insured and referenced operators. No other body had been formed that was for the business leaders exclusively, and it was a win/win for consumers and government bodies alike. Rates and a level of professionalism were established.

Under Mark’s leadership the Tree Contractors Association of Australia boomed, with privileged SES and insurance work flowing to 350 members.

Steve Tipton: 1998-1999

“My main focus was to get enough numbers together to make it worthwhile providing training courses for various activities which are now readily available,” said the TCAA’s second president, Steve Tipton, “Also networking and exchanging ideas and building bulk purchasing power as a group, and providing specialised services to SES and insurance companies to minimise untrained people being hurt.

“I think too many members looked upon The TCA as a cash cow in the provision of emergency services and that was the main purpose of their membership.”

Ron Atkins: 1999-2000

“My brief tenure as President of the TCA in the mid 1990s followed the strong leadership and expertise of Mark Wilcox,” remembered third president, Ron Atkins.

“I took over that role around the mid 1990s. At the time, the association was actively pursuing local councils and insurance companies, with the intention of offering them fully qualified and insured members, well skilled and experienced in all manner of treemanagement operations. It was my task and desire to maintain the recognition the association had already achieved under Mark’s leadership.”

“During my tenure as President, with our hard-working committees, we were able to increase the TCA membership to supply prompt 24/7 attendance and service to leading insurance companies, councils and home owners in times of storms and tree failures, as well as constantly offering members selected training programs, work operational reviews and more to ensure policies, procedures and operations were always up to date.”

Shiu Narayan: 2001-2011

Shiu Narayan increased the TCAA news and media representation and created a safety-at-work ‘one-stop shop’ for consultation and tree work. His forestry background was significant in the development of policies directing better pruning practices and training, and he inaugurated the two underpinning standards of Pruning of Amenity Tree Service and Tree Protection on Development Sites.

Shiu also endorsed the Safe Work meetings to produce outcomes closely related to SWMS and JSA workbooks and auditing of the members. His key legacy was safety, and Shiu Narayan was instrumental in connecting membership and executive.

Dan McArdle: 2012-2015

Dan McArdle’s contributions to the progress of professional arboriculture are too numerous to list here, and have been substantial, but perhaps Dan’s biggest single legacy was securing the unit crane access licensing for arborists.

Implementing a licensing system in the Australian tree industry offers several benefits for both individuals and the industry as a whole.

While it might seem more convenient to operate without a licence, obtaining proper licensing in the Australian tree industry offers numerous advantages, including professional credibility, legal compliance, safety assurance, access to opportunities, and enhanced trust from clients. Additionally, it contributes to raising industry standards and promotes a safer and more professional working environment for everyone involved. Regional Training was given to ensure TCAA business managers were qualified under AQF3 or AQF level 5 arborists.

Dan McArdle, president from 2012 to 2015, secured unit crane access licensing for arborists. Image: TCAA

Gregor Van Emrick: 2016-2017

Gregor has specialised regional knowledge that allowed for continued roles in bushfire management, windfarms and sustainable energy with regards to trees. Gregor was an ex-TAFE arboricultural teacher and educated many arborists through the regional areas. Passing over his business, Agile Arbor, to his son Jaz allowed the family tradition to be inherent with high quality practices and vegetation-management programs. Gregor would often cry out: “Where can I find another three arborists? Where can I find them?” His tenure began the recognition of there being a pressing lack of trained arborists in the being a problem for the industry.

Jim McArdle: 2018-2021

Reduced numbers of trained, qualified arborists continued as an issue during Jim’s presidency, and the TCAA endorsed the Training Package Review, bringing the peak bodies together and defining the role of the tree worker, climber and report writer, and risk assessor.

The TCAA was instrumental in providing training days and tree-management guidelines to assist Facility Managers, the Department of Education and other bodies, including training as part of licensing in the TCAA.

Jim continued the push for training and an increase in quality, competent arborists through the TAFE systems, meeting with heads of TAFE and government bodies, including mayors and ministers. Jim’s legacy was the production of the TMG-Tree management guidelines, the training of assessors, arboricultural articles, and allowing for best industry practice to evolve.

Membership increased prolifically under his presidency, as did opportunities for school leavers and cross-skilled professionals joining the industry through correct training.

Author and president from 2018-2021, Jim McArdle brought peak bodies together and defined the role of the tree worker, climber and report writer, and risk assessor. Image: TCAA

Carson Smith: 2022-current

As the current president, Carson’s overarching vision for the TCAAA extends far beyond mere membership growth. He’s dedicated to spearheading a movement that not only increases the membership, but revolutionises the arboriculture industry. Carson has also supported other states, sending arborists interstate to assist storm-damaged towns. Carson’s primary aim is to elevate the standards of tree care across the nation.

Current president, Carson Smith (right), spearheads a movement to increase membership and revolutionise the arboriculture industry. Image: TCAA

The TCAAA vision

Through extensive advertising campaigns, strategic partnerships, and proactive outreach initiatives, the TCAAA will:
• Attract more members, but also foster a community that prioritises education, accreditation, and adherence to best industry practices
• Expand its reach into diverse regions, collaborating with other tree guilds and associations to establish a united front dedicated to promoting the significance of licensed arborists and sustainable tree-care practices
• Amplifying the association’s presence on both local and national stages to emerge as the go-to authority in arboriculture, and • Set new industry benchmarks.
• Through our collective efforts, the TCAAA will continue to grow, shaping an industry where qualified professionals are celebrated, valued, and entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding our natural environment for generations to come.

References: TCAA Archives 1994-2024. Standards As4370 29009, As4373 2007, As 2303 2018, EPA Raw mulch order. McArdle D&J (2014 ed 2023) Tree Management Guidelines-TCAA. Sydney.

To learn more of the TCAA log on to

Image: TCAA
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