The Hackfalls Arbor Camp is about trees and to a small extent about the people who volunteer their time to maintain the trees at the Hackfalls arboretum.
The Hackfalls Arboretum, in my humble opinion, has one of the most significant collections of exotic trees in New Zealand. I think this is confirmed through the simple fact that it receives regular visits from horticulturalists, arborists and botanists from around the world that volunteer their holidays to maintain the trees.
If you have been to Hackfalls, you will know that it is a working station and that the previous owner Bob Berry and his wife Lady Anne Berry, planted all the trees while they were running the farm.
So you may now wonder, if it is a station, basically a working business, why should anyone volunteer their time? Why does the station not pay for the work?
As so many passion projects, they sound like a great idea when you start, and then they get bigger and bigger, and you need help to keep going, or the project falls apart. The Hackfalls Arboretum is one of these projects. With a collection of 3000 trees, the station can’t afford to maintain all of them. To give the reader an understanding of the cost of the upkeep, we have a client with a collection of 400 mature trees, and their annual budget is $25.000+GST per year.
In 1998 when Mark Randell got fresh off the boat from England, he heard about this passion project, and a year later he was volunteering his time and his company’s resources (Arbocare Tree Company), to help keep it going.
In 2011 I was contract climbing for Mark. And at the time, I was quite active in the industry, helping with events and delivering workshops. Mark asked me if I thought it would be possible to get some arborists together to help him with the pruning at Hackfalls. He said that the trees are just getting so big and that the resources he can provide through his company are just not enough.
I said I would have a look on my way home and let him know what I thought. It was early autumn when I drove to Hackfalls, and everyone who has been there will know the feeling when you come around the corner, and the tree-lined lake opens up in front of you, and you think “I have landed in arborist heaven.” So this was the moment the Hackfalls Arbor Camp was born.
Thank god our industry is such a passionate bunch because without much asking and promotion we had 25 tree people at our first camp in November 2011. Since then, the number of participants has been quite stable at around 15-20 people every year. To give something back to the volunteers, we asked Treetools to come on board to supply us the newest climbing and rigging gadgets so that the volunteers can try them in a real work scenario. As we all know, Richard from Treetools is a passionate supporter and of course went a step further and also supplied every year some spot prices for the volunteers to take home.
We have done a movie night, rigging and climbing workshops, and other projects like the flying fox over the lake. All the events, workshops and projects are run and organised by volunteers. And everyone is welcome to contribute something new.
So what is in it for you as a volunteer at the Hackfalls Arbor Camp?
To be honest, nothing or everything. Hackfalls Arbor Camp is a project for tree lovers, so if you are that person and you want to learn about trees, share your knowledge of trees, and hang out with other like-minded people, then this is the place to be for you on 20-22 March 2020.
So what is in it for Mark and Rossy, the organisers?
From a commercial perspective, nothing. It cost the Arborcare Tree Company and Pro Climb money to keep this going. On a personal level, it does wonders for Mark’s and my mental health. :) Sitting around a campfire and talking trees is like going to a mini arb conference, it revitalises you and gives you energy to deal with the non-tree people we meet every day in our jobs.
So what is in it for the event sponsors?
From a commercial perspective, nothing. I am quite sure Treetools does not sell more because Richard sends stuff to our camp. I am quite sure Ash and Oak Arborists Ltd who regularly have supplied a tracked chipper and their time to this camp have not sold more chippers. And I am also quite sure the local companies that have donated spot prices over the years have not seen a boost in sales because of it.
All of this is stuff individuals and companies do because they like helping. And if you are a cynic and you think people do not like helping check out the give a little website, it may change your mind.
If you want to give a little to the Hackfalls arboretum, come to the Hackfalls Arbor Camp and volunteer some of your time, supply your equipment, donate your money or food. In exchange, we will give you nothing but the opportunity of having a great weekend with like-minded people.
If I have one wish for this year’s arbor camp, it would be to see more consultants and other desk-bound arborists to join us. It would be great to get some input into how to manage the arboretum moving forward.
I look forward to seeing you all on Friday evening around the campfire for some tree talk.