Santa Claus arrives early for the gardens

Trish Radge of Bendigo Bank (left) with Sandra Guy, Vice President of Permaculture Noosa. Photo Rob Maccoll.

It’s only October, but Christmas came early in Cooroy last week when Bendigo Bank’s Cooroy Community Bank announced $50,000 in funding to enable Permaculture Noosa to complete its multipurpose pavilion in Cooroy Community Gardens .

Like so many community projects, the pavilion had failed during Covid and was now facing impossible increases in construction costs after years of hard work and fundraising from Permaculture Noosa volunteers.

Bendigo Bank’s generosity will now allow the project to be completed in early 2023, and the earth mothers (plus a few fathers) who are the heart and soul of the organization celebrated in the streets.

The Cooroy Community Gardens were originally established 30 years ago behind the Butter Factory in Maple Street, by a dedicated group which included Geoff Lawton, the founder of Permaculture Noosa, to produce food for the local community. Over time development forced gardens into smaller areas of the town until 2011 when after a storm swept away the newly erected garden shed it was decided a new location was needed to establish a bigger and better garden, secure storage shelters and possibly a community building to host workshops educating people on how to grow their own food.

After negotiations with Noosa Council, vacant land adjacent to Cooroy Badminton Hall in Emerald Street became the new home, and Cooroy Community Gardens became an incorporated body which enabled them to access funding. With support from Noosa Council, local businesses and the community, the gardens began to take shape in 2013.

But in 2017 membership of the Gardens group was dwindling while Permaculture Noosa was strong, so the two organizations joined forces and PN took over management of the gardens.

They saw that this space would be perfect for an education pavilion, workshops and a community hub. It could be a place to extend permaculture to the kitchen and serve as a permanent office for the organization.

In 2019 plans were drawn up by Brett Grimley of Ecolibrium Designs, Eumundi, and fundraising began. Grants were secured from Noosa Council and the Gambling Community Benefit Fund, and the club took care of monthly barbecues, raffles, seed sales and open gardens. By the end of 2021 nearly $100,000 had been raised and things should have been on track, however Covid and skyrocketing construction costs created seemingly impossible hurdles. The cost of the project has soared well above initial estimates.

In 2022, Permaculture Noosa decided to spend what they had on laying the slab, hooking up the plumbing with electricity and landscaping. The club has raised over $19,000 this year and was recently able to purchase high quality hardwood poles and roofing iron for the project.

The next step was to hire the builder to erect the pavilion. Next, the club fabricated the kitchen and office walls from crushed earth under the direction of project manager Paul Stanke of MAXbuild Construction. But where would the money come from?

Enter Bendigo Bank.

On the day of the check presentation, a delighted Sandra Guy, Vice President of Permaculture Noosa, told Noosa Today: “The pavilion is of high quality design and will add to the built amenity of Cooroy. It is very central in the city and will be available to many other community groups. This will be a great asset to all of Noosa.

“The pavilion and garden together will be seen as a community center of excellence, showcasing the principles and practice of permaculture in Noosa and neighboring counties. A facility that will be sought after for holding community events and a place where people can take time to relax in an emerging abundant garden and green space.

Away overseas on vacation, Permaculture Noosa Chairman, Councilor Tom Wegener contacted Noosa Today to add his congratulations to the group and thank Bendigo Bank.

“The Permaculture Noosa and Cooroy Community Gardens Pavilion is such a laudable project in so many ways, and I am thrilled to finally see it come to an end. I am also delighted that it was supported by the findings of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation’s Agri-Hub Symposium.

About Lucille Thompson

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