Major Feral Olive Tree Removal Project

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More than 400 km of roadsides in the Indigo Shire has been mapped and cleared of feral olives in an ambitious task undertaken by the Chiltern and Rutherglen Landcare Groups with the support of the Indigo Shire.

The groups’ goals are to remove the olives before they became a major environmental weed in the district and to inform the community of their potential threat.

The three year Indigo Feral Olive Control Program began in May 2012 with $96,000 funding from the Victorian State Government’s Communities for Nature. The program also has the active support of the Indigo Shire who has contributed $10000 towards the removal of other woody weeds on selected roadsides.

Project manager Mr Rick James from Riparian Management Services said the initial task was to map olive density and distribution on roadsides managed by the Indigo Shire within a 10km radius from the towns of Chiltern and Rutherglen, specifically on roadsides with a high conservation value.

“The interesting thing we found was that a lot of olives were only one to two metres high and were relatively young....they were really only just starting to get away,” said Mr James who mapped 462 km of roadsides.

The next task was the physical removal of olives which was done by a contractor last spring. All of the olives, bar a small four km of densely infested section of roadside, were removed.

This winter, where the olives had been removed, four selected roadsides were revegetated with native plants, mostly understorey shrubs, to enhance their biodiversity value and to replace the structural habitat provided by the olives.

In October last year the Landcare groups had a working bee on roadsides where there had been olive tree removal and revegetation work to do follow-up olive regrowth removal and tree guard maintenance.

The intention is to revisit all sites this year where the olive trees have removed to do follow-up regrowth removal and to continue to monitor the sites.

“The Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park is especially vulnerable to olive invasion,” said Jane Roots,  executive member of the Chiltern Landcare Group. “Once olives get into the bush, they can be pretty hard to get out.  We really need to catch them before they spread any further.”

As President of the Rutherglen Landcare Group, and convenor of the program’s steering committee Jenny Davidson said many of the olives on the roadsides had spread from historic plantings of olives. “We are very aware of the capacity of the olives to regrow both in the areas we have treated, and from the olive plantings that have taken place on a very broad scale in this district over the last 10 to 15 years,” she said. “There is a real concern that garden plantings and farm driveway plantings of olives are possibly a ticking time-bomb unless those olives are well-managed and regularly pruned.  Ensuring we don’t allow our olives to become an environmental weed is very much a community responsibility as I see it. We need to be very aware of what we are planting in our gardens and on our properties.”

Members of the project are happy to talk to other landcare groups and agencies and share their experiences about what they have learnt from undertaking the project. Contact Jenny Davidson