Up until about 2011 there was a lot of doubt and controversy about who was responsible for pest plants and animals along roadsides. After a lot of consultation and hard work in establishing a determination, local councils were deemed to be responsible for all roadsides that were ‘council roads’. VicRoads would continue to maintain all roads and freeways for which they were responsible.
As a result of this decision the Victorian Government provided funding to shire councils to address roadside weed and pest management. Shires could engage contractors to undertake the work that would then be approved for payment.
Our shire’s initial funding was $150 000 over the first three years: this was extended to a fourth and fifth year – total funding was in the order of $250 000.
The rate base for our Shire is small. There are not many on-ground staff. Recognising this as an issue, that in the past weed control had led to sub-optimal results, our local landcare groups developed a model to assist the Shire in delivering the program.
Our proposition was that if the Shire met all the regulatory requirements of the funding, the landcare groups would inspect the roadsides to locate weeds and rabbits. Each group selected an approved contractor to undertake the work; a landcare representative supervised the work and approved final payment by the Shire to the contractor on the basis that work was completed to the required standard.
Shire officers, agency staff and the landcare group representatives have met annually to review and improve the program.
There has been a significant impact on the extent of roadside weeds. The involvement of the landcare groups meant that community education is more effective and our community owns the project. A win-win for all.
Moyne Shire Council is responsible for around 3,000km of municipal roads within its municipality. One of these roads is Three Chain Road at Wangoom on the outskirts of the sprawling urban city of Warrnambool. The road runs pretty much North-South, is fairly short (3.3km), is basically unformed, and happens to have environmental reserves a short distance (<1km away) from either end.
Back in 2007 Council’s Environmental Unit was made aware of a major Gorse (Ulex europaeus) outbreak along this road by volunteers with an interest in the environmental reserves. The size of the problem (1.5km long x 40m wide x 3m high in the main patch) immediately took it to #1 as the largest Gorse patch on any Moyne managed roadside. Unfortunately, there was no funding available to treat it at the time but the site was listed as a very high priority in a Victorian Government grant application that was applied for in 2008. Funding was successfully obtained but due to oversubscription it was significantly less than was required to do a thorough job. A single chemical treatment was all that could occur and thankfully the contractor tasked with the job of manually spraying it performed admirably!
Council had insufficient budget available to return in 2009 but spraying was able to occur in 2010 and 2011. Working closely with the local part-time Gorse facilitator in 2012 a machine operating on private land at a nearby area was obtained allowing Three Chain Road to be groomed/mulched (ironically by the original contractor that had manually sprayed it). With additional funding having subsequently been made available Council has returned to spray this roadside twice per year for the five years since. In this time Council has assisted the neighbouring private landholders by allowing them to utilise the contractor whilst on-site to perform Gorse spraying works at minimal cost.
In 2017 the urban sprawl of Warrnambool is creeping ever closer to Three Chain Road but the road itself still remains unformed along its entire length. The only difference is that Gorse bushes are far harder to spot and when they are found they are ankle high rather than towering monsters. Council knows it will need to re-visit this roadside regularly for the foreseeable future to ensure it stays on top of the problem, but looking back on the results of the past nine years of activity it certainly feels that the Three Chain pain is now a gain.