“We’re just a bunch of locals who want to plant some trees,” says Phillip Island orchard co-op member Lars Olsen.
“We are six locals who are avid gardeners. We do grow in our backyards but you can only do so much in your yard. We wanted to grow fruits and nuts, maybe potatoes or corn.”
Westernport Water saw the potential for a worthwhile community partnership and stepped in to offer a one-hectare site at Wimbledon Heights just as the co-op was beginning to think they could not get a suitable site close to a residential area.
Westernport Water’s managing director Murray Jackson said what set the co-op’s project apart from other community gardens was the orchard design, access to class-A recycled water and its ability to grow larger crops on the site.
Local councillors Phil Wright, Kimberley Brown and Andrew Phillips have helped the co-op secure funds for a first shelter belt planting.
Lars Olsen hopes the local community will turn up in numbers for the orchard open day planned for some time this month. The date will be set once the memorandum of understanding between the group and Westernport Water is finalised.
He says it’s been invaluable to the group to get a partnership with an established local entity such as Westernport Water. “They’ve provided the site but also the organisation and helped with communication. As a group of volunteers, you can feel quite isolated.”
Lars has lived on the Island for about eight years. He works for Fisheries Victoria and enjoys getting involved in his community.
Along with the other co-op members he is banking on lots of other like-minded locals seeing the potential of the orchard and garden. He says it’s in a good spot, close to Cowes and right in the middle of Phillip Island.
“We’ll wait and see where the energy takes us. Final decisions aren’t up to us. The thing is not to be too prescriptive. If people come along on the open day with a passion for growing mulberries, we can look at that.”