Corinella – A self sufficient town amongst the darkness of storms

On 13th February 2024, when the heavy storms cast their shadow across the South Gippsland region, townships across the region plunged into darkness and despair.

With no power, reception or communications, Corinella & District Community Centre (CDCC) was a rare beacon of light for the community as it has not only solar panels but a large Tesla Powerwall 2 battery which Bass Coast Shire Council invested in two years ago, alongside funding from Sustainability Victoria and the CDCC. This set up proved to be a model of what all small regional towns should have to ensure residents are not left without vital communications, power, food and other essentials during increased severe power outages.

“When the power went out this week for 5 days – we were so delighted to have continuous power with the battery never dropping low throughout the entire period. This meant we were able to open our doors and let our community in to charge phones and other items. ” said Kerryn Ladell, Manager of the CDCC.

The CDCC operates a food pantry and the battery set up ensured they were able to operate during the extended power outages by distributing food and water.

On the Wednesday following the storms around 30 community members quietly came in and charged their phones sitting by themselves in shock – charging phones and not talking to each other. The next day at least 50 community members came in and the silence passed as people began talking to each other and comforting each other. Friday improved again there were real connections and a more uplifting atmosphere.

“People were worried about being isolated again and having a lack of any information was an issue. We discovered we needed a vulnerable persons register that is triaged. Our brilliant team of volunteers ran with it contacting and visiting people and collecting food etc to help the community.” said Kerryn.

The small waterline community was visited by Mayor, Cr Le Serve every day as well as visits by Councillor Geoff Ellis and Jordan Crugnale MP plus council officer visits every day to ensure support.

“Council kept asking us what was needed and in came the support with food, daily information updates on insurance claims, what to do with spoilt food, how to access psychosocial and wellbeing support” said Kerryn.

“People of all ages came in. For some people, they just needed a hug. For some, this was their first visit to the centre. They never knew it existed. The centre is local hub for Council here and we are thrilled that our investment in solar and battery banks meant that this space could operate alone to assist this community.” said Mayor, Cr Clare Le Serve.

“Pretty much everyone in this town has generators but with the cost of living we heard for some that meant choosing food or petrol. The location meant many people were facing a 60km drive to even get petrol so to be able to access what they needed here was a huge help for many.” said Mayor, Cr Clare Le Serve.

Our partners at Bass Coast Health provided hundreds of meals over the few days to the community.

The investment to install a 13.32 kW rooftop solar system, and 13.5kWh of battery storage funded under the Sustainability Victoria ‘Community Climate Change and Energy Action Program’ and by Bass Coast Shire Council with 25 of the contributions from CDCC has certainly paid off.

Mayor Le Serve said, “we will advocate state and federal governments to ensure all small townships can successfully operate independently with solar and battery power as well as looking at satellite telephones to ensure much needed and often life saving communications”

“We are so appreciative of everything you have been able to help with during this time.” Community member.

“I was by myself but in the darkness couldn’t do anything. In my normal life I couldn’t do this so I felt so happy I was able to have a shower and do my hair once the power came back on. It made me feel more myself again”. Volunteer.

/Public Release. View in full here.