In the late 1990’s, landowners in the Maldon region became particularly concerned about the impact of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta), on the local environment . Neighbouring farmers had been trying to destroy this noxious weed for years but with limited success.
Some of the local property owners invested a lot of time trying to develop more effective techniques to kill this very hardy plant and, after much trial and error, eventually concluded that injecting herbicide directly into the wheel cactus lobes was the most reliable and efficient means to permanently kill the plant.
In 2005 neighbouring Landcare group members began to address the common goal of eradicating Wheel Cactus infestations in their local areas and proposed forming a Landcare network. Two members each from the Maldon Urban Landcare (MULGA), Nuggetty and Baringhup Landcare groups formed the initial Wheel Cactus Committee. They were Wendy French, Brendan McKnight, Glenn Merrick, Caroline and Roy Lovel, Jim Chaplin and Ian Grenda. Also present at the first meeting held on 8 June 2005 at the Baringhup Hall was Noel Muller from Parks Victoria and Chris Pollock from the Mount Alexander Shire.
Funds were sought as it was identified that the extent of the Wheel Cactus problem was beyond the capabilities of private landowners, a small volunteer Landcare network, and one Parks Victoria ranger. A submission was prepared by Barry McKnight, Wendy French and Ian Grenda and on 7 March 2005 presented to John Thwaites, then State Minister for Sustainability and the Environment. They succeeded in being granted $30,000 over three years on 5 July 2005. On 23rd October 2005 the first public meeting about Wheel Cactus was held in Maldon.
By 2007 Ian Grenda and Noel Muller were organising monthly Wheel Cactus Killing Field Days on public and private land using equipment supplied by Parks Victoria. Most attendees were volunteer Landcare members and local landowners. Advice and loans of equipment were offered to landowners.
Structural changes to the Wheel Cactus Committee were necessitated by the need to apply for funding to cover the costs of holding field days and to assist in attacking Wheel Cactus infestations.
The Tarrangower Cactus Control Committee (TCCC)
The Tarrangower Cactus Control Committee (now called the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc.) was formed at a meeting on Sunday 30th November 2008 following a Community Field Day at the old cork plantation at Mt. Tarrangower, Maldon.
The elected office bearers included Ian Grenda (President), Cheryl Kane (Secretary) and Tony Kane (Treasurer). The original committee members were Annette Fraser, Judy Bromage, Caroline Lovel, Barrie McKnight and Noel Muller. Virginia Adrian, the Mt. Alexander Landcare co-ordinator attended.
At this meeting a decision was made to join the Farm Tree and Landcare Association as a ‘Member Group’ in order to be eligible to apply for State grants, obtain insurance cover and pay for equipment and herbicide used to kill Wheel Cactus. An agenda was decided with community field days being central in the TCCC’s operations and held monthly from April to November (with the AGM in November).
Besides community field days, the TCCC major goals were to raise awareness and encourage volunteer participation through literature and regular local media articles.
Until late 2013 the TCCC operated as a member group of volunteers under the auspices of the Farm Tree and Landcare Association. In September 2013 the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group became an incorporated body of 12 members with the single focus of eradicating Wheel Cactus from the environment.
Hence the group is now named the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) and its volunteers fondly referred to as the ‘cactus warriors’. We regularly promote our goals by participating in the Maldon and Baringhup Agricultural Show and the Maldon Easter Parade and have many associations with other organisations, including Parks Victoria, the Connecting Country environment group, our local Mount Alexander Shire, the North Central Catchment Management Authority, DEWLP and Monash University.
With new technologies have come opportunities to reach a wider audience. In July 2013, the TCCG Inc. launched this website.