Start a group or go solo

You can fairly easily start and run your own group, or attack Old Man's Beard on your own.

Setting up your own group

First off, remember we are always happy to take questions. For advice on setting up groups or anything else related to Old Man's Beard control, get in touch.

Is someone already working on it in your area?

Sometimes individuals or groups are already working on an infestation, especially if the OMB is in a park or other community area. To confirm if there's an existing group, you can:

Define your area

Having a defined area makes success easier to imagine for would-be sign ups and helps keep the work manageable. Will be you working in a park or a street or a suburb? It's a good idea to put the area in the group's name.

Define what you want to achieve

What's your aim? Are you thinking total eradication is possible in your area? Or is it control and harm reduction? It's good to be reasonably clear about this and related questions before advertising your group - communicating aims is important in motivating people. Bear in mind your aims may change as you work out what is and isn't possible.

Also ask yourself if your group will be limited to OMB. Wellington has no shortage of invasive plants and they're often in the same area as OMB.

Frequency

Will you be working each weekend or, say, monthly? Do you envision larger, less frequent outings, or a bunch of smaller, more regular ones? Or both? Remember that you're likely to have a mix of dedication and availability among members, so it'll likely take a while to see what works best.

Talk to the council

It's a good idea to talk to your local WCC ranger before launching your group. You'll definitely need to if you're operating on council reserve.

Many groups are supported by the WCC, who may be able to supply tools, weedkiller, training, advise on specific sites, general help, as well as putting you onto like-minded people in your area.

And if you're looking to replant public land after removing the Old Man's Beard, you may be eligible for free native shrubs and trees.

Set up iNaturalist

See how to set up iNaturalist for your group.

Advertise for volunteers

When you're ready, start looking for volunteers. You can:

  • Talk to neighbours

  • Get on Facebook and advertise on local groups

  • Local community groups (for example, your suburb's progressive association or similar)

  • Do a flyer drop

Publicity

An email list and/or Facebook group are effective. The good thing about Facebook is you can post before and after shots, advertise upcoming events and cross-post to similar groups for increased social media coverage.

Send us your details and we'll add your group to our Join a Group page.

Planning a working bee

Tools

You'll need to get some tools, gloves and weedkiller. At a minimum, everyone will need secateurs. It can be useful to have a short handle mattock to share to help dig around any big root balls. You may want other tools, such as loppers, if you need to tackle other weeds to get to the OMB.

For public land, talk to your local WCC ranger, who may be able to provide or loan you some tools. They can also advise re weedkiller.

Training

For your first working bee, it's a good idea to invite someone from an existing group to help train you and your members. See also our notes on clearing OMB.

You'll need training and sign off to use weedkiller on public land. Your local WCC ranger will advise who can provide this.

Photos

It's a good idea to take before and after photos. Ideally, the before photos will be uploaded to iNaturalist.

Scouting out your site

Terrain

Old Man's Beard often grows in some pretty tough, steep and sometimes slippery terrain. This can effect the kinds of volunteers able to help. It's tricky because you don't want to dissuade keen people able to work on the flatter areas, but you'd need to be open with them when you think the site you're currently working is not for them (see Health and Safety, below).

In general, a reasonable level of physical fitness is required.

Ownership

Is it public or private land? Check the WCC property map and the WCC reserve map if you are unsure.

Public land is generally managed either by the WCC or, in the case of roadside areas, NZTA. Both organisations have plant maintenance programmes but are stretched and keen to talk about what help your group could give them.

You may also like to work on private land. There's no shortage of Old Man's Beard on private property. Sometimes a single stand of the plant will run across both land types. Obviously owners are often happy to have the work done - a little door knocking or note writing can be effective. Be clear with them what the work involves, the fact it's free, and if you use poisons, declare that up front. Note that, as with public land, you'll need to carefully assess any slip danger (see Heath and Safety).

Health and safety

Never attack Old Man's Beard where doing so presents unreasonable risk to you or your people. And be aware that risks include legal ones, as outlined below.

Steep terrain

Working on Old Man's Beard in the 'wild' is not always easy. As noted, it's often (but not always) on steep, difficult land. This has two main H&S implications:

  1. Volunteers must have a level of fitness suitable to the terrain. This will vary from site to site. You may have to diplomatically suggest to some members that a site isn't for them. And some sites are just out of the question and shouldn't be attempted.

  2. Clearing Old Man's Beard on steep areas can cause slips. In most cases, Old Man's Beard isn't holding the land up, but get advice where you're not sure. The WCC may be able to assess the suitability of a site if you ask them.

Poisons

Most groups use weedkiller on the Old Man's Beard roots. This is likely to be piclorum gel, which is available over the counter. For any public land, you must have received training and sign off from WCC. The WCC supply poison signs and stands, which should be used.

Tools

Tools are sharp (the good ones anyway) so a good degree of common sense is needed.

Emergency Contact Details

Make sure you record emergency contact details for all your volunteers (to be used only in case of accident, sudden illness or civil emergency).

First Aid

If working on WCC reserves, training and first aid kits will be offered by WCC.

Record your work

After your working bee, make sure you record what you have done.

Hours worked

It's a good idea to record the number of hours worked by your volunteers for annual reporting to WCC.

Accident Register

If an accident happens, ensure everyone is safe, and please report it to the WCC contact centre 04 499 4444.

Weedkiller Register

It is essential to record weedkiller use on public land, please use this form.

iNaturalist

Update the observations on iNaturalist so you have a record of what has (and hasn't) been tackled to date.

Photos

You may also want to share your before and after photos on Facebook or similar.

Going solo - hitting out on your own

It could be you just want to get stuck in whenever the spirit takes you. Most of the above advice applies to you also. You may be able to get WCC help (for example, for tools) but that would be case by case.

If going out on your own, make sure you tell a partner or friend where you are going and when you intend to return. Ask them to follow up if you haven't returned by the stated time.