Brett Oldland’s career shifted up a gear thanks to his knack for problem solving. Having started out as a council truck driver before completing his Certificate III in Horticulture and IPWEA training, his career took a leap into asset management after pursuing the subject with vigour.
“While all my horticulture colleagues were asking ‘What are we going to be asked to do next?’, I was reading about asset management and trying to work out what we could do ourselves to further develop and futureproof the horticultural assets,” he says.
It’s this kind of enthusiasm that propelled him to work as a Horticulture Leading Hand and Asset Planner at Adelaide Council in South Australia, where he contributed to the council’s extensive body of knowledge for sustainable parks management. He reviewed and strengthened the council’s Horticultural Maintenance Guidelines and worked as part of a supportive and multidisciplinary team to review and update the Open Space Asset Management plan for a range of assets. This included work on previously unrecognised data capture and analysis in collaboration with Public Realm Operational Teams.
After more than eight fruitful years at the council, Brett launched his business – Colour Me Green Horticulture – in early 2021. The fusion of grassroots experience with theoretical and asset management experience makes him a rarity in the horticulture world.
“I’m passionate about open space, meeting green targets and sustainability in the corporate world, but I’m very pragmatic in my approach,” says Brett. “It’s all well and good to set strategic greening and canopy cover targets but if the resources aren’t available to support an increasing asset base, it’s unsustainable. I can explain the long-term benefits of actively caring for and managing these assets, develop a plan and put it into action.”
How Brett spends his days
While Brett’s working days at the council revolved around cyclic maintenance schedules and asset management reporting, his schedule at Colour Me Green Horticulture is less structured. He now provides horticultural maintenance, advice, planning and design, as well as asset management services.
Brett splits his week between field-based operational roles and office-based tasks. “I like to structure my time so that I have maintenance work booked over one or more days earlier in the week, and spend the remaining time concentrating on consulting and office-based work,” he says.
He also keeps his routine malleable, incorporating enough flexibility to seize opportunities. He’s currently working on an asset data capture project to update facilities-management planning for the South Australian Government. The job requires regional travel. “When travel is necessary, the cogs need to keep turning,” he says. “I rely on my strong network of horticultural professionals to provide subcontract maintenance services.”
Brett says good time management is critical. “Right now, there are a lot of development aspects to my business that see me working into the night,” he says. “But I’m used to it. I’ve got an incredibly supportive family that can see the value in what I do.”
While he isn’t a registered arborist, Brett loves trees and strongly supports their sustainable management. One of his projects at Adelaide Council was to devise and develop a definitive classification of Park Land and Street trees based on his legislative knowledge of the Adelaide Park Lands Act. As part of the project, he cleansed a database of 50,000 trees. He references the guidelines he created regularly in his new business.
Now Brett has his sights on gaining arboriculture and financial asset management qualifications. “That’s something that will help me provide improved services for clients,” he says.
Just as important to Brett are his professional associations. He has completed IPWEA’s Asset Management Foundations and Professional Certificate in AM Planning courses and developed key connections as an IPWEA member. He says these relationships are critical for his business because they provide ongoing networks of support. “Ironically, and much to my surprise, I also found out that my father-in-law [Robert Harris] was the original WA representative of IPWEA’s NAMS management committee,” he laughs. “It’s very useful having common ground with your father in-law!”
Asked to compare working for the council to running his own business, Brett says he has more agency than ever before to act on asset management principles. “I’ve been able to further explore my ideas around principles like sustainability and financial viability,” he says. “Unlike at Council, where you can often be restrained by process and competing priorities, I can incorporate the best features of these ideas into client management strategies.”
We suspect his services will continue to be in demand.