Getting to Know Di Lucas ONZM

Getting to Know Di Lucas ONZM


What’s your number one saying?

Everything’s interconnected.

Good things take time!

Where are you based?

Lived in ChCh central city since 1987. Though I grew up in Tarras Central Otago on Bendigo Station; that's my turangawaewae.

My dad understood that you needed to retain biodiversity for resilience, needed product diversity, and he would preserve fields of tussocks with a policy of never ploughing natural land. His rabbit control was superb too!

Rural & urban knowledge

I’ve been lucky to work in all regions of our wonderfully natural and culturally diverse country.

What led you to permaculture?

Whilst commending seeking to utilise natural processes, annoyance at the lack of respect for indigenous biodiversity. I challenge this ignorance and arrogance.

What is your profession/passion and who are the people you share this with?

I started Lucas Associates in Geraldine in 1979 after resigning from the Ministry of Works. I couldn't work under a regime that was destroying rural New Zealand. I wanted to see if I could make a difference from the outside.

I became a rural-based landscape architect to advise rural landowners, and in 1982 appointed to the NZ Environmental Council, the government’s environmental policy advisory body prior to the establishment of the Ministry for the Environment. And, then I was appointed to the Land Settlement Committee administering South Canterbury pastoral leases and in 1987 to the NZ Conservation Authority. Then in 1989 I was elected as a regional councillor.

I served for a decade on Ngā Whenua Rāhui, a fund that assists Māori Land owners with protection of indigenous ecosystems on their lands. For 27 Years I chaired the government’s Nature Heritage Fund enabling protection of nature on private land. We protected about 750 different areas, totalling around 340,000 ha. 

MLA research, utilising land typing as a timeless base, and landscape assessment attributes including tangata whenua values, as demonstrated first in our 1993 Canterbury Regional Landscape Study, continue as best practice today.

Concerned at the lack of guidance to address climate change mitigation, in 2019 we developed the Integrated Farm Plan (IFP) to guide land owners in transitioning toward carbon zero.

What lesson in life stands out the most for you?

As a child I was lowered into a mineshaft on the farm to rescue a hogget. Waiting for the rope to come back down, I learned dependence on others!

What changes would you like to see for permaculture in the future?

Greater respect for nature.

What question do you wish to ask those who are reading this?

Learn about your place before having grand ideas to introduce new aspects. Design management to respond to place.