High Achievers - Chris Lawry Urban Forrest Officer Mt Barker District Council

Article image - High Achievers - Chris Lawry Urban Forrest Officer  Mt Barker District Council Chris Lawry standing next to a baby Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Sequoia) they planted about 5 years ago.

Not everyone is lucky enough to work at what they love.

Chris Lawry, ‘the tree guy’ from Mt Barker District Council is an example of what can be realized by someone who does.

“I love trees,” Mr Lawry said.

“My great grandparents were orchardists in Wantirna, Victoria. I was born into an Adelaide hills family nursery business and haven’t really quit horticulture since.”

He worked in the nursery and landscape industry for 10 years after leaving school and then studied arboriculture at the University of Melbourne and became an arborist.

Now enjoying family life, Mr Lawry lives with his wife and three children in the Adelaide hills where they lead a very out-of-doors lifestyle tree climbing, camping, surfing, fishing, trail running, trail bike riding – even just walking!

Mt Barker District Council, ‘the district’, has a predominantly rural character with a big urban centre – Mt Barker.

It is home to approximately 33,000 people spread over 597 square km with most of the people living in and around 14 townships.

Mr Lawry sits in Council’s Planning and Development Department known as ‘City Development’ and is part of the Open Space Team but serves all departments.

“I work for the planners in major land division assessment, general development assessment and precinct design, engineers and project managers in Council’s capital project works, and assist the field services team in day to day arboriculture requirements.”

Mayor, Ann Ferguson, admires the work of the horticultural team, which has won numerous awards for parks and gardens across ‘the district’ where even the bus shelters are art pieces.

In nominating Mr Lawry as this month’s LG Focus council high achiever, the Mayor said, “Chris has done an amazing job; working closely with Business Mount Barker to plant trees and 20,000 bulbs to beautify the town for the future.”

Mr Lawry loves trees.

He also loves working at Council for the ‘green fields’ development challenges across farmland that is essentially degraded open woodland.

This involves retaining the best remnant trees in public managed space and informing and influencing the sub division design layouts.

“The vast majority of the district is dominated by Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum) associations which means it is in ‘the Goldilocks zone’ for growing trees with its relatively high rain fall and deep productive soils.

“So, it’s a lot of fun growing pretty much whatever tree you might like to try out for the public to enjoy and marvel at.”

Mr Lawry loves the fact there is still lots to do and get done.

He loves the workplace culture and the very supportive employment conditions at Mt Barker.

He loves creating epic new ‘treescapes’, maintaining and retaining the old tree ‘treescapes’ and preserving the districts remnant ‘veteran trees’ which are home to various hollow-dependant fauna.

Not all the work is digging or designing.

Mr Lawry also loves working with external service and regulatory agencies to rally for better understanding of trees in private spaces and for better outcomes for public trees and public tree management.

He consults with local business and community groups to promote tree planting and horticulture throughout townships.

“I am excited that there is a great worldwide realisation around the importance of urban trees and greening in general.

“Also that sooner or later urban tree installation will be a properly considered and budgeted part of all urban structure planning and construction.

“It will be seen to be just as important as the housing, transport, sports complexes, carparks, roads, pavements and all the utility services.”

Mr Lawry lives by the motto: “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago – the next best time is now”…