It’s been 17 years since Matt Elliot established Tree Shapes in Thames, an arboriculture business offering high standard residential and commercial tree work by qualified arborists for a competitive price.
Matt, who’s originally from Hamilton, gained an arboriculture certificate in 1997 and an arboriculture diploma in 2000 before working for Asplundh in Dunedin managing powerline and council contracts in the lower South Island.
In 2004, he moved to Thames, where his wife Te Ana is from, and was commuting to Auckland for work at a tree company where he managed staff and helped build their business.
It was during this time he realised there wasn’t anyone based in Thames offering arboriculture services.
“There was a gap in the market and I thought it was worth a go so I then set up the business [Tree Shapes], started advertising and talking with different contractors and it gained momentum over time,” he said.
There was a well-established tree business based in Ngatea, Peninsula Tree Surgeons, which Tree Shapes bought out in 2006, which helped the business grow.
While Matt said his customers loved Tree Shapes services, he loves the industry and “can’t not be involved” with it, but he’s now cutting back his work and has sold the arboriculture business to Hikutaia-based Splintas Firewood.
“My back and other parts of my body aren’t the best anymore so I’d rather get out while I’m still able and my body’s still willing, just to try to make it last a bit better,” he said.
“We’ve had the business on the market for two years, and have been looking for the right people to take it on, and about a month ago we were approached by Splintas Firewood interested in buying it.”
Matt hopes with Splintas Firewood’s database and workload, on top of Tree Shapes extensive customer base, there will be a more consistent workload for his staff, allowing the business to grow.
“We complete 20 to 30 jobs per week but businesses in provincial towns can have a hard time balancing and getting a consistent workflow,” he said.
“But summer’s usually very busy and flat out due to more people getting back out into their gardens, changing the use of their property and having more houses going on the market so we do more work tidying properties that are up for sale.
“Our workload also increased after Covid-19 due to more people focusing on their properties while at home.”
Matt will still be involved in the pricing of work where necessary, and will also work alongside Splintas Firewood to carry out any necessary stump grinding.
“There’s not a huge demand for stump grinding but once a week we’ll go into a property and remove trees for a new lawn or concrete pad and need the stumps gone, and our machines deal with those,” he said.
It is a little-known service Matt is keen to promote, having bought the local stump grinding business two years ago, aptly named Stumpgrinding Services.
It will be the only locally based Peninsula-wide stump grinding business, hoping to cover the loop weekly from Thames to Coromandel, Whitianga to Tairua, and back.
From January 1, Splinta’s Firewood will take over Tree Shapes’ arboricultural operation, retaining Tree Shapes staff and continuing to run all tree work, delivering the same level of service in conjunction with their firewood supply and onsite wood splitting.
“I want to let my customers know we’ve sold the business and thank them for using and supporting us for the past 17 years,” Matt said. “Through supporting our small business, we in turn have been able to provide job opportunities for local people, and provide work to other local service providers.”