In the late 1990’s, property owners in the Maldon region became particularly concerned about the impact of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta) on their farms and the local environment. Some had been trying to destroy this noxious weed for years but with limited success.
Neighbouring landowners invested much time to develop more effective methods to kill this very hardy plant and, after much trial and error, concluded that injecting herbicide directly into the Wheel Cactus lobes was the most reliable and efficient means to permanently kill this plant. In 2005 neighbouring Landcare group members formed a network to address the common goal of eradicating Wheel Cactus infestations in their local areas. 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 the extent of the Wheel Cactus infestations was beyond a small volunteer Landcare network. A submission was prepared by Barry McKnight, Wendy French and Ian Grenda, in collaboration with Parks Victoria ranger, Noel Muller. This was presented on 7 March 2005 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 to work in partnership with Parks Victoria. 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 Demonstration Field Days, on public and private land. Most attendees were volunteer Landcare members and local landowners. Advice and loans of equipment were offered to landowners.
The Tarrangower Cactus Control Committee (TCCC)
Structural changes to the ‘Wheel Cactus Committee’ were necessitated by the need to apply for more funding to continue holding field days and to assist in attacking Wheel Cactus infestations. The ‘Tarrangower Cactus Control Committee’ was formed at a meeting on Sunday 30th November 2008 following a 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. It was decided community field days were central to the TCCC’s operations (held monthly from April to November with the AGM in November).
Besides community field days, the TCCC major goals were to raise awareness of the Wheel Cactus problem 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 TCCC became an incorporated body of 12 members and was re-named the ‘Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc.’ (TCCG) but retaining the single focus of eradicating Wheel Cactus from the environment. The group’s volunteers are fondly referred to as the ‘cactus warriors’, and regularly promote our goals by participating in local community events such as the Maldon and Baringhup Agricultural Show and the Maldon Easter Parade. TCCG has 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 and Federation Universities.