EMPLOYEE STORIES – CHRIS HATCLIFF
The industry might be tree management, but supervisor Chris Hatcliff notes his role is often about removing more than just tree limbs. It’s about dealing with any “roadblocks” that might affect his crew of up to 15 who work around power lines as part of the AusNet Power Network contract in Victoria. It’s also about removing any confusion and concerns when it comes to dealing with the public.
Chris handles a district about 20km north of Melbourne encompassing the areas of Eltham, Kangaroo Ground and Lilydale.
The 29-year-old has notched up five years with Active after starting as a ground line trimmer on the Essential Energy contract in Port Macquarie, but his time in the tree industry extends far beyond that.
“I grew up around the industry,” Chris explains. “Mum and Dad owned a private tree trimming business, so I grew up around chippers, clearing land on my days off school, and working for them while studying.”
That studying was actually in the field of IT, and before returning to the great outdoors Chris worked as an IT systems administrator for a security company. But a life change beckoned, and an advertised position with Active offered the promise of greater options around the picturesque region of Forster and Tuncurry.
It also offered further opportunity when positions later opened up in Melbourne, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
“I applied to all three, and Melbourne was the first to get back to me.”
In his time with Active, Chris has also worked as a chipper before undertaking the training to become a climber. He was promoted to supervisor almost two years ago.
An average day sees an early start opening up the yard for his crew and scoping out the work. He occasionally fills in as a climber when numbers are short.
“My job is to look after the climbers and speak to residents,” he explains. “There’s substantial work in climbing and residents can find it a bit imposing. I like to chat with them and let them know what’s going on and why we’re there. Once they know the reasons then most people understand. It’s about collaborating and communicating on the same level.“
“I also enjoy making sure the job is safe, and that it’s easy for the team. It’s about removing roadblocks.”
Chris continues his role is made easier by his tight-knit crew.
“We’ve got a really good crew. We’re friends outside work and that makes us close. We tend to know what each other is thinking and we know what needs to be done.”
As for memorable moments, well the scenery is always a highlight.
“I still love climbing. You get off the ground in places that not many go and the views are amazing. Up north around Forster and Gloucester you work in really remote areas, with spectacular waterfalls and scenery. I particularly remember making a zip line to cross a river. That was incredible.”
A further highlight was a work trip to South Australia a few years ago.
“We were all staying at a caravan park, eating pub meals, and having fun between work.”
As for what he’s learnt, well dealing with people and public speaking are among the skills he’s picked up, and he hopes to further hone these in the future and plans to stay with Active for the long term.
As for what others might learn about Chris…well he’s an avid music fan, with a penchant for live metal shows.