SBCG Solar Panels

Getting Solar-The Man Behind the Panels

Getting solar for our garden has been a goal for many years. And, in many ways, a lofty one at that. At least, when one considers that a little over 14 years ago, our current, 122 plot, community garden didn’t even have reliable access to water.

But that was then and over the years the lil’ community garden that knew it could, persisted; plugging away little by little.

And then it happened…

Compliments of a generous grant from the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank, we’d finally manage to be gifted the necessary funds to secure our very own 6.4 kw solar system.

But unbeknownst to us at the time, securing these funds would prove to be the easy part.

Roy Rudder
The Man Behind the Panels

And of the garden’s almost 275 members, no one understands this more than Roy Rudder. Because it’d be the 67-year-old Roy who selflessly volunteered his services to oversee the solar installation process.

To the self-proclaimed electronics nerd, the decision to step up to the task was a no-brainer. Afterall, he reasoned, his background seemed perfectly suited for the task at hand. That background included:

  • Extensive hands-on experience in audio equipment installation…
  • And eleven years in project management for Austar Communications where he directed and oversaw up to 160 contractors at a time.

As such, helping the SBCG Committee get their solar project across the goal line didn’t strike him as particularly Herculean or daunting.

It was just a little community garden, after all. One he and his wife, Lynn joined in back in February of 2022. Their intentions had been straightforward enough.

They were interested in meeting like-minded gardeners focusing on fruits, vegetables and herbs. Not long after that, Roy said, they were soon introduced to natural plant and herbal cures and nutrition support.

Roy says he and his wife were immediately attracted to the easy-going and open layout of the garden, low plot fees, friendliness of the members and the willingness of everyone to help each other. Especially that of Michael Lee whose carpenter and handyman expertise around the garden caught Roy’s attention.

And when Michael began building support frames for the garden’s donated aquaponic tanks and pump system, Roy was more than happy to lend his expertise in installing the small solar panel, back-up battery and inverter. Not long after, Roy found himself an active SBCG committee member acting in the capacity of Ordinary Voting Member.

Which is how he found himself with his hand up, happily volunteering to see the SBCG solar panel project to fruition. It was a project he expected would require a handful of phone calls and perhaps a few meetings in the garden.

SBCG Solar PanelsToday, Roy chuckles at his naivete.

“All my experience up to that point had been in the private sector,” he says. “I had no idea the amount of red tape I was in store for.”

In the end, the process of getting the solar panels installed and connected to the grid would require 13 long months. Months that saw Roy liaising between the garden committee, solar power providers, various government departments, engineering companies, an electricity retail outlet and a local community centre.

Meetings in the garden, endless phone calls, emails and follow up emails came and went. Monthly updates at committee meetings often left many with more questions than answers. The less determined would’ve easily buckled beneath the endless barrage of How’s and Whys.

But through it all, Roy never faltered. And, in the process, he perfected the art of being the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. Each and every hiccup, speed hump and fork in the road duly noted and recorded in precise detail to be acted upon.

Until eventually, SUCCESS would be had…and the lil’ community garden that knew it could, became the lil’ garden that did.

And, in the process, one Ordinary Voting Committee Member demonstrated he is anything but. 

 

 

 

 

Bendigo Bank Community in Action

SBCG & Tugun’s Bendigo Bank — Community in Action

If you wanted an example of community in action,  a visit to your nearest community garden would be as ideal a stop as any.

And Tugun’s Southern Beaches Community Garden would be no exception. From garden beds which need building,  grounds that need tending, compost bins that need turning and pony poo runs that need manning…

There’s plenty of work of the volunteer variety to go around. And, yet, that would only be half of the ‘community in action’ story.

Community in Action Stalwart Allan Merlehan
Tugun’s Bendigo Bank Manager Allan Merlehan

Because, without funding from generous donors, all that work doesn’t even get off the ground. And in the case of the SBCG, chances are extremely good that generous donor would be the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank.

Yes, since the garden’s inception in 2009, Tugun’s Bendigo Bank has offered the garden’s members and the community, in general, its unwavering support. A level of community support that is extremely rare.

And one person that knows this better than anyone is Bendigo’s Tugun Branch Manager, Allan Merlehan.

So, that said, we at the SBCG wanted to show our gratitude by giving Allan the floor. To give him the opportunity to answer a few questions and, in doing so, to shed a little light on the banking mindset that has helped to separate and distinguish themselves from the rest of the banking, big player herd.

All while simultaneously helping the SBCG grow as much as it has.

 

So, Allan, how long have you worked for the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank? As a banker in general?

I’ve been at Tugun for I0 years and in finance for a total of 36.

Was there anything overly unique or special about the bank that sort of drew you to the place?

The ‘Community’ focus was one aspect and the other was they had bank managers with authority in their branches, so you had decision-makers at ground-level.

Having worked there for as long as you have, what do you feel makes Bendigo Bank different from other banks?

The bank’s focus on the customer & the community.

On average, how much does Bendigo Bank put back into the community each year?

Our branch directly sponsors about $90k.

When do you remember first hearing about the Southern Beaches Community Garden and how has the Tugun Branch been involved with the garden?

I heard about them very soon after I arrived in Tugun in January 2010. Since then our Tugun Community Bank Branch has provided over $32,000 in funding to assist with projects such as the propagation tunnel, water tanks, a covered seating area and a trailer.  Our directors and staff have also volunteered in a working bee.

What were your first impressions of the organisation?

They immediately came across as a group of determined people wanting to improve their local community.

Since then, what have you found most interesting or impressive about the garden?

How the garden has continued to evolve from the initial concept 10 years ago to what it is today.

Bendigo Bank Tugun Branch's Maris Dirkx and SBCG friends
Bendigo’s Executive Assistant Maris Dirkx and SBCG friends

Do you find any similarities between the goals of your bank and the SBCG?

The goal of connecting with your local community & endeavouring to make a difference.

After so much involvement with the garden, what are your thoughts as you walk around the grounds that, over the years, you’ve had such a significant hand in helping to shape?

I believe it is the members who have had a significant hand in shaping the garden into what it is today. We have assisted where we can, but it is the determination and hard work of the committee and the members of the SBCG that has brought that concept 10 years ago into a reality.

Of Bendigo Bank’s Tugun Branch’s many contributions to the local community, is there one that makes you most proud? If so, which one and why?

I am proud of all our contributions in the community, whether that is in a dollar value, the sharing of knowledge or the volunteering of time. It’s not so much the contribution, but what it enables others to do, that makes a difference for our community.