News | 25 May 2023
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History of olive trees in Mount Victoria

Move over Mediterranean. Find out how a little suburb at the bottom of the globe produced some of the world’s best extra-virgin olive oil.

Large olive tree in the middle of the sidewalk.

Back in the 1980s, a resident suggested that the Council should plant olive trees on the streets of Mount Victoria, possibly to celebrate the rich Greek culture and community in the area.  

The Council loved the idea and planted French Verdale olive trees on streets around the heritage suburb, from Roxburgh to Elizabeth Street and beyond. The trees grew, and so did the fruit!  

Olive tree in the middle of the footpath with three cars parked on one side and a blue and white house on the other side.

In 2002, Graeme Harris of Kapiti Olives Ltd. had the great idea to harvest the olives to create olive oil. The project was done on a shoestring with Council staff helping to pick the olives, choose a name and even design the labels and packaging.  

Despite all the car fumes, 'Suprema a Situ' won a gold medal at one of the biggest and most prestigious international olive oil competitions at the L.A. County Fair in California.  

Mount Victoria olive oil in a bottle.

There were 26 extra virgin olive oil entries from New Zealand, and another 366 entries from countries like Italy, Greece and Spain. Nine of the New Zealand entries were awarded gold medals. That's not bad for a little country at the bottom of the world.  

Another vintage of Suprema a Situ (which is Wellington’s motto of “Supreme in Location”) was harvested in 2004, and overall, only 72 bottles were produced. They were not sold to the public, but instead gifted to influential people in the food media, as well as international stars like Rick Stein.  

Olive tree in Mount Victoria with white house behind it and a car with a blue surfboard on top parked on the street infront.

In more recent years, the olives have been harvested by locals for personal use, and by the community who have been using a company in the Wairarapa called Pressing Engagements to press them into oil.  

The oil has been used at community dinners and gatherings, thanks to the team at the Mount Vic Hub.  

Cracked footpath and damaged tree planter on Elizabeth Street

Unfortunately, some of the olive trees on Elizabeth Street in particular have proven to be too tenacious for our city streets. Over the 40 odd years that they have been growing, they have caused costly damage to the footpaths and underground infrastructure. 

Some of the trees will be removed and replaced with more sustainable options, including some new fruiting olive trees! Thanks to our new structural tree pit technology, these trees can happily grow without damaging the street, and hopefully be picked by again by locals for generations to come.