Hort Journal: Registered Horticulturists in Demand

By: Wayne Van Balen MAIH RH0027, Manager, Registered Horticulturist Programme
E: rhmanager@aih.org.au

This article first appeared in the December 2019 issue of Hort Journal – visit www.hortjournal.com.au for the full edition.


More and more government and large industry contracts are requesting Registered Horticulturists to achieve the best results for their projects.

The Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH) Registered Horticulturist (RH) program has been in existence now for approximately eight years. AIH Convenors have worked hard in a very positive manner to build regional networks in a truly national organisation. The organisation benefits significantly from the activities and successes of collective regions.

AIH, as the Peak Body for the profession of horticulturists, is obliged to provide new and valued programs to advance the interests of Registered Horticulturists in Australia. This includes those working in the production, amenity, environment and government sectors. The profession we are dealing with is becoming much more sophisticated. Successful nursery wholesalers need to know they are dealing with educated professionals who understand stock quality, species habits and alternatives.

It is not simply a matter of having a plant list. Well educated horticulturists need to understand biological interrelationships between alternative species in specific environments. Retailers likewise will benefit from customers receiving cutting edge support. Government and large industry contracts will be demanding professionals with sound, up-to-date and broad-based knowledge.

Many Landscape Architects, as well as Government and Industry contracts, require the involvement of Registered Horticulturists in achieving the best results for their projects. There are currently over 100 Registered Horticulturists in the program, with growing interest in this membership category. The program requires RHs to maintain a minimum of 24 relevant professional development points over any 24-month period.


Tree Pruning Workshop with Ian Gaston (Image: Jane Van Balen)


Regional Hubs

The AIH has an excellent system of Regional Convenors based in definable regional localities. Whilst general information is important, a focus on regional issues, e.g. NSW Southern Highlands or Queensland South East region, can be useful in addressing specific regional issues. This also allows another level of networking and mentoring and also mitigates potential problems and losses. For example, it provides opportunities for regional members to gather on an informal and semi-formal basis.


Citrus Workshop with Rob Engalls (Image: Wayne Van Balen)


Program Integrity

To ensure the integrity of the program, random audits are carried out in relation to RH logbooks which are kept up-to-date by members. To participate in the program, members need to have an appropriate level of qualifications and experience and carry professional indemnity insurance. The great benefits of the program include:

  • Participants keep up-to-date with changes and advancements in the profession and associated industries.
  • A current and strong network of associated professionals.
  • Potential for cutting edge collaboration, particularly on significant projects.
  • Critical awareness of up-to-date standards and methods which avoids duplication, mistakes and inefficiencies.
  • In an ever-increasing number of projects, developers require Registered Horticulturists to certify the quality of plant stock and methods of planting in accordance with the current standards.
  • Major projects, whether they be large scale residential, recreational or public open space, are requiring professionals who have a broad range of horticultural knowledge and skills. The principal contractor can be confident that they are using a professional who is a member of a well-administered program and who is responsible to their peers.

Award Winners

Current examples of high value, award-winning projects that have demanded or benefited from the use of Registered Horticulturists include:

  • Barangaroo in Sydney
  • Gateway project in Perth
  • War Cemeteries projects in Brisbane and Papua New Guinea
  • Dawn Andrews Park constructed by QM Properties Pty Ltd in Queensland.

Focus on Horticultural Science and Management

Our calendar of Continuing Professional Development activities and events gives members information on a broad range of activities they can participate in.

The following topics form the core of workshop training:

  • Diversity of available plant materials and plant biology.
  • Plant nutrition.
  • Pest and disease management.
  • Soil science.
  • Efficient water management.
  • Interrelationships with associated ecologies and the environment.
  • Needs and benefits of greenspace development.
  • Food security.


Soils Workshop at Ryde with Simon Leake. (Image: Wayne Van Balen)


The RH movement is more than an advertising showcase of horticulturists. It is about seeking accountability and commitment from those in our communities who:

  • provide the essential amenity of greenspace.
  • play an integral role in managing the influences and impacts on climate change.
  • manage natural resources and are accountable for the impacts on our environment.
  • maintain the availability and quality of water.
  • have a direct role to oversee the supply of quality food.

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