People Stories

From Idaho to Orange; a journey back to the country

Author: Careers at Council

Read time: 4 min read

Q&A with Mike Collett, Arborist – Orange City Council

With its spectacular tree-lined streets, European-themed parklands, and stunning array of native Australian tress, Orange provides an inspired workplace for Arborist, Mike Collett. We recently caught up with Mike and discussed his journey to NSW’s Central West region, and why he believes local government is the perfect place to grow his arboriculture career.

Q. Can you tell us about your career background?

A. I’m from Idaho in the US originally, and I started in this industry straight out of high school doing mowing, tree work and parks maintenance. I met my wife who is Australian and we moved to Sydney around 10 years ago.

Initially I worked as a casual for the City of Canada Bay in Sydney, looking after the maintenance of a council-owned golf course. They then offered me a permanent role as greens keeper, open-space mowing, and cricket pitch/sports field maintenance where I worked for around five years.

Q. What led you to the Central West and your role as an Arborist?

A. My wife is a Nurse and she was offered a position in the hospital here in Orange. At that stage I was ready to make a change, and I wanted to gain a qualification which I hadn’t been able to do previously because my Visa had not been finalised. When my permanent residency came through, I jumped on a horticulture traineeship opportunity with Orange City Council.

I then decided to change over to an arboriculture traineeship, but our local TAFE didn’t offer an arboriculture qualification, so I found a private company who offered the ideal training and passed the details over to the HR team. They contacted several other councils and private companies in the area to see if we could drum up enough interest to get the course up and running, which we were able to, and next month I will finish up my Cert III and IV in Arboriculture.

That support was amazing from council – I don’t expect I would have got that anywhere else.

Q. What surprised you the most when you moved from Sydney to Orange?

A. It’s definitely very different to Sydney, but actually it reminds me a lot of Idaho – so I eventually found my way back to the country!

What probably surprised us the most is how little we miss being in Sydney. People often worry they won’t have all of the things they’re used to in a big city, but we really don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything here. Orange has amazing food, great wine, a really vibrant arts and music scene just as good as anything in Sydney. There’s really nothing we miss.

Q. Can you tell us about your role, and what a typical day looks like?

A. We have two teams here; one team looks after the planting and the other, the tree work. Saying that, sometimes we have a massive planting project where we need all hands-on deck, or a tree emergency where everyone needs to help out. There’s a lot of reactive work where we’re responding to resident requests for pruning or tree-safety issues so often a typical day is a non-typical day! But we also follow a planting schedule where we aim to plant on average 500-600 trees per year.

Q. What type of trees are you planting right now?

A. Orange is famous for its 130-year-old European trees which have thrived here because of our fairly European climate – we get warm summers, but it can also get really cold and snowy in winter. However, with climate change and newly introduced pests, we’re having to move away from some of those trees and we’re planting a lot more Australian natives like Flowering Gums, Red Gums andCrepe Myrtle varieties.

Q. Workplace Health & Safety must be really important in your role, how is it managed within Council?

A. Yes definitely, its number one. Health & Safety procedures and policies are clear and we also have the opportunity to be involved. At the moment, I’m the Workplace Health & Safety Committee Chairman for council. Every section within council elects a representative to speak on behalf of their crews – it’s very open and everybody is heard.

Q. What do you find the most rewarding and enjoyable about your role?

A. I really enjoy creating something so immediate for the community. With tree work especially, there’s an instant result – when you do large-scale planting projects, a whole street can be transformed and it’s so rewarding getting positive feedback from the residents. It makes the work more meaningful.

I also really enjoy the workplace culture here. Having come from a larger council where you contract out a lot more work, it’s great at Orange because we have such a diverse in-house team of builders, electricians, plumbers who all work out of the depot here. It’s a really good mix of people.

Imagine what your life could look like in the Central West; lifestyle, community and amazing career opportunities. Why not check out the jobs on offer right now.

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