Permaculture Input to Canterbury

Permaculture Input to Canterbury


Fresh to the city I jumped into some big conversations on local food security, and this was where I first met Robina McCurdy, she had come to Sumner to hold a workshop on Local Food Resilience and on a design for Sumner Community Food Forest and the van Asch School. As a group, we identify the fruit trees that would work best in the area, what the local community would like, how they would best work together and where to place them on the site. It was such an uplifting day to be around people who loved to get their hands in the dirt and create function and beauty together.

Lots of plans were made by the Sumner Community Gardens group on how to move forward with the design. A digger came in to start the swale, followed by the community to shape and plant out the site. 

I got involved with a Food Forest study group run by Sacha Healey, we came together monthly to learn about this system of growing food, whilst establishing At Living Springs site at the head of Lyttelton Harbour. There Food Forest Hui in Wellington Sept 2013 Sacha and some others from our region had attended, this brought a fresh burst of energy to our area and how we could incorporate it into our local growing systems.

Robina McCurdy another held a workshop in Lyttelton Harbour in December where we scoped out a site and design a for a family of 4 on a property newly required on a steep hillside. Filming for a documentary about localising food was also happened at this worksop. Another great thing Robina did was to make an option to pay for this course using TimeBank credits


Matt Morris had been working on  - (Draft Report) Community Food Resilience in the Avon-Otakaro Residential Red Zone

In August 2013 Fiona Parkes from Rangiora Earthquake Express was gifted back close to 70,000 for the helicopter fuel from the NZ Government. REE was looking for a group/s or projects to donate the money onto, it was time for the organisation to finish activities. Their desire as an organisations was to leave the money as an investment to the community, to leave a food legacy (in fruit & nut trees inspired by the Food Forest approach) that would make a difference in the future if another natural disaster affected the community again.

2 September 2013

We quickly grew as a group into the Christchurch Food Forest Collective who become a key group for the direct and for the possibility of food/ skills/ education holders for the community to add the vision we obtained for the workshop pictured below.

The paper people circle: Bringing it all together - each 'little person' had a value at its heart, which was then elaborated and visioned out to look at how it could be achieved.

We were all inspired by a group in Seattle USA - Beacon Food Food Forest Permaculture Project that had started in 2009 that came about from a PDC course.

Soil & Health hosted numerous sessions facilitated by Matt Morris & Bailey Peryman, where multiple groups would come to talk over what is happening in Christchurch and what was possible if we can together and pooled our ideas, energy, and resources.

Regular meeting monthly meeting occurred to stay connected, to present updates and to work on growing the FRN.

Below are a bunch of specific dates and information. This captures a lot of what was happening, though not the full account is here. Many other events and conversations throughout the years happen. This is a basic account of the things I can remember from my time involved.

 23 September 2013 Sacha and Gordyn presented the CFFC results of our workshop and the vision of  ‘a patchwork of food-producing initiatives based around local hotspots and linked together like a ribbon woven into the fabric of our communities’

Perennial Public Planting - seeding the Garden City of the Future // CCC trailer

 4 Dec 2013 - Terms Of Reference: Food Resilience Leadership Group

Food Resilience Network Action Plan 20-10-2014 Vision: 

A patchwork of food growing at local hotspots, linked together like a ribbon and woven into the fabric of our communities.

1 Cultivate Relationships Foster partnerships, coordinate activities and provide governance on food resilience.

2 Grow understanding, skills and celebrate local food Communicate, educate and inspire people to grow and enjoy local food.

3 Propagate and Support Edible Gardens Support new and existing edible gardens in homes, schools, and communities.

4 Strengthen Our Local Food Economy Encourage more localised food production, distribution and access to healthy food.

5 Grow Supportive Policies Evidence-based policy development and advocacy to advance food resilience.


Feb 2014 -  CFFC put together out vision, mission and aims as a  group and established our intent within the process of the development of local food resilience group. We defined that the purpose of the group is ‘to provide leadership, advocacy, guidance and support for communities to grow projects that increase our food resilience in Greater Christchurch for future generations.’ 

22 March 2014 - Food Resilience Workshop

Over the last six months, the original desire for lots of fruit and nut trees took hold (catalysed by Fiona Parkes) and has morphed into a Food Resilience Network. . . 

Food Resilience Network a key platform for informing and enacting.

The key reason for this meeting is to develop a proposal (or proposals) for funding. How would the REE money be distributed, what other funding opportunities are around, and what is the projects and time scale for all the group involved.

Also a presentation: Natural Environment Recovery Plan: Soil& Health Canterbury lead agency to advocate workstream 12. A short video from Chrissie Williams (NERP program leader) was shown.

 About 30 people attended this hui at the University of Canterbury to discuss how they could help create "the best edible garden city in the world".

 We had a lot of buzz and chat around what we had been visioning, the inspired conversation of how real the dream is becoming in such a short space of time. and how the passionate the team was about the project.

FOCUS LOCAL - Sumner has a great community garden and has begun establishing a FOOD FOREST at Van Asch School. 

If you are in or near the Sumner area, this Sunday 30th March 


Byo food and drinks or grab something from a local shop, meet on the Sumner Village Green at 12pm,

and have a lovely afternoon getting to know some locals!

 24-27 April 2014 

A few of us went to the National Permaculture Hui in Wellington, which opens up a new track for me. Here I took on the role as the Canterbury Bioregion representative and put up my hand alongside Lily White & Niki Jones to bring the hui to Christchurch the following year. I did my PDC course in the UK in 2002 and I had been growing my knowledge in different countries around the world, though this was my first involvement in NZ with permaculture, and I felt so enlivened by the community, and full of energy to make connections and find the networks in Canterbury.


A lot of work was done by many people to identify the existing fruit and nut trees in the Red Zone, to be marked and saved and mapping them to share our local food source with the community. 


 1 Nov 2014 - Edible Canterbury Expo - Edible Canterbury & City Council present the vision of Christchurch becoming the Best Edible Garden City In the World! 

Celebration all the hard work these organisations have put into creating food resilient communities, to launch this new entity, learn more about this new Food Resilience Policy, and to find out how you can be a part of growing a delectable future for Christchurch.

 29 March 2015 - Edible Canterbury Hui - WEA

An interact afternoon about making locally-grown, healthy food accessible and sustainable thought Greater Christchurch.

Presenting Practitioners:

Beyond Organic – The Permaculture Orchard tour - 

Speaker Stefan Sobkowiak from Canada.

Local & Urban Food – The Next Frontier  - Speaker James Samuel from Ooooby in Waiheke 

The Edible Canterbury Charter - Fundamental Values And Principles For The Vision - Speaker Vicki Buck Deputy Mayor, and Acting Mayor of Christchurch 

Short media presentation featuring Bailey Peryman from 

Cultivate and ‘Project in the North Frame’

Agropolis Urban Farm Project - Speaker Annelies Zwann Project Coordinator

A Brave New City - Speaker Michael Reynolds

Garden City 2.0 - Speaker Ashvin Goburdhone

Biological Husbandry Unit at Lincoln - 

Speaker Bill Martin Manager of the Training Programme


The Signing of the Edible Canterbury Charter



Food Resilience Hub Workshop … There is a need for something on the ground that demonstrates what Food Resilience looks like. There are a lot of local food projects in greater Christchurch including more School garden projects. 

Workshop aim – A collective understanding 

Q. What are the connections? 

Q. What role can the hub play to be the connector? 

Q. What kind of Hub would add value to local food projects that already exist? 

Q. What kind of facilities would be needed?

 E.g.: Garden demonstration space, built infrastructure. 

Q. Is your organisation able to put time into working on a joint proposal to help create this Hub? 

Participants formed small groups to discuss these questions and a lot of great information was harvested from this time

 Identified Hub infrastructure:

● Growing space

● Nursery

● Seedbank

● Kitchen

● Classrooms

● Online resources

● Shop

● Cafe/ restaurant

● Water supply

● Energy supply

● Office/meeting space

● Social space

● Demonstration sites ­ for growing and appropriate technology

● Library

● Composting / Organic waste management

● Storage/tool shed

3-6 April 2015 - National Permaculture Hui

Liz Kerslake, Lily White and I held the main roles needed to host the National Permaculture. We had a hard time finding a location that met our needs, mainly around the accommodation. Once we chose to go with billeting options,  we found a perfect option in New Brighton. Our theme ‘Moving On, Basic Regeneration with Permaculture’ focused on the ethics of permaculture - Fri as our Welcome day followed by Earthcare day, People Care day, and Fair Share day. We called on our community to talk about projects and initiatives that were relevant to our changing environment and allowed the important questions to filter up through as the weekend progressed using Open Space Technology a system introduced to us by Margaret Jefferies from Project Lyttelton who had used this technique she has used as past events.

Welcome Day 

Earth Care - Day One

People Care - Day Two

Fair Share - Day Three 

AM8:00Doors Open…

9:00  Welcoming & Meet

9:30 Overview Of Hui

10:00 - Intro To Permaculture  - Graham Mosen

11:00- 1:00 pm  PINZ AGM

8:45  Welcoming

9:00 - 10:00 - Earth Care, The Journey Within. Our Daily Waste. - Dr Sharon Mclver

10:10 - 11:10- Future Living Skills, Bring Sustainability Home - Rhys Taylor

11:20 - 12:20 - Water atchment Systems  - Sergio Vallesi

8:45  Welcoming

9:00 - 10:00 -  Permaculture Your Mind, Garden Your Soul  - Natalie Hormann

10:10 - 11:10

Personal Efficiency Tools & Technique

 - Myk Ruston

111:20 - 12:20

Cultivating Our People Ecosystem - Dido  Dunlop

8:45  Welcoming

9:00 - 10:00

Permaculture & Resiliency -  Matt King

10:10 - 11:10

Designing Sustainable Living Communities

- Robina McCurdy

 11:20 - 12:20 -  Food Resilience Network 

/ Edible Canterbury

 - Matt Morris & Bailey Peryman

Picnic Lunch - BYO

LUNCH 12:30 - 1:30 pm

LUNCH 12:30 - 1:30 pm

LUNCH 12:30 - 1:30 pm

PM  2:15-3:45 - Council Meeting 

2:00 - Outside -Building Temporary Bamboo Structures  - Gary Smith

4:00 - 5:30 - Inside - 

Permaculture Your Mind, Garden Your Soul  - Natalie Hormann 6pmDiploma        Presentations

1:45 - 5:00

Intro to OST - Margaret Jefferies 1 hour; then 2 x OSTSessions

4:00 - 5:30 -PEG Meeting

5:40- 6pm - Growing School Series P1: Growing Schools 

Robina McCurdy

1:45 - 5:00

3 x Open Space Technology Sessions

4:00 - 5:30

 Council & PEG 

5:40- 6pm 

Growing School Series P2: Awakening Gardeners 

Robina McCurdy

1:45 - 5:00

2 x Open Space Technology Sessions  + Harvesting

5:40- 6 pm - Growing School Series P3: Localising Food Mix - Robina McCurdy

Pot Luck Meal

DINNER 6:00 - 7:00 pm

DINNER 6:00 - 7:00 pm

DINNER 6:00 - 7:00 pm

7:30 - 11:00 pm

Social Knowing

Redwood Poetry/ Music

accompanied by Daniel C.

Bio Region Map & Games

7:30 - 12:00 am

BOOGIE Night  with 

Carmel Courtney, Doug Brush, Clayton Hiku, & Chris Diabinet,,, Drum Group

Alcohol Licence

7:30 - 11:00 pm

Entertain Me

7:30-9:00 - Showcase:  Robz & Matai

9:00-10:00 -  Film - supplied by Juliet Adams Lift Library(Lyttelton)

10:00-10:30 - Short Doco Food Resilience - Robina Mccurdy

7:30 - 9:00 pm

Farewell Ceremony

Clean Up

FRN had a slot at the Hui to present the project. There are several sites around the city that could be a hub for the FRN. What we've discovered at this workshop is that none of these sites can fulfill all the functions we'd like a Hub to have. That a distributed, or multi-nodal hub. Thinking more of an ecosystem of hubs rather one central place.


A couple of great outcomes from the hui was a conversation on hosting a PDC course and who would be keen to be involved, and what that would look like. About 20 people turned up for this conversation; The other was for the local group to have monthly permaculture groups. This was a steady stream of visits doing working bees on each other property, talking about developing permaculture in the region and how to represent permaculture on a professional level.

 22 April 2015 Food Resilience Hub Workshop - Space Academy

FRN came together led by Chole Wartini from Enspiral, to look at the opportunities for occupying sites in the central city against the functions, activities, and infrastructure we need to create a Food Resilience multi-nodal Hubs for Christchurch. the question asked …. What could we create if we addressed them as a system and explored creating a distributed hub?

The locations on offer:

1. The Cool Store (Space Academy): Focus ­ Distribution / Retail / Visibility / Culture

2. Agropolis Urban Farm: Focus ­ Production / Education / Visibility / Culture

3. Botanic Gardens: Focus ­ Production / Education / Visibility

4. North Frame: Focus ­ Visibility / Culture / Retail / Education / Production

5. Piko Wholefoods: Focus ­ Education / Processing / Culture

6. Seven Oaks: Focus ­ Education / Production / Processing

7. Residential Red Zone and the Avon Loop: Focus ­ Production / Education / Visibility / Culture

Then assemble initial working groups to pursue these opportunities, brainstorming what assets each held, the time scale of when they would come available, and what were the strongest leads we had so far.

The North Frame site stood tall amongst the rest and was decided that was where I main focus for our first hub would go to.

 12 May - CERA held custodian of this piece of land and were opening up an Expression of Interest (EOI). We came together to create a strong brief and creative concept, and assemble a design team for the site in the North Frame.

Initial Site Assessment - The site is located in the North Frame of the city centre, on the Northside of the Avon River and between Colombo and Manchester Streets.  This area is part of the Avon River Precinct which will be a recreational area with a pedestrian and cyclist promenade along the river. In its current state, the site is quite isolated from where people occupy the centre city, but this will change in the coming years.  

Identify Values and principles that we will assess design concepts and activities against. These are linked to the Edible Canterbury Charter.  What are the resources of the organisational group's involved. And what would be the main activities of the site?

 2 June 2015 - Site Visit & Design Brief Forming

 10 Jun 2015 - Terms of References Discussion

This was a great session going over the governance currently of the FRN and potential models that could streamline the process all the groups and actions involved. We also looked at the brand of Edible Canterbury.

22 June 2015 - North Frame Food Hub Design Brief.

Site Visit to obtain information for the workshop on the 30th. Identified information needed for the design brief:

Site Location, Description, Site Diagram, Site History, Wider Contextual Factors, and Opportunities, Identified Appropriate Uses, 

Project Vision and Outcomes, Design Aims and Principles, Wider Project, Process and Delivery Strategy, Visual Influences and Inspiration

Identified Resources - Key partners and stakeholders, People / Skills, Teams


 The Ōtākaro Orchard  will be Christchurch’s first edible park and local food community centre. Located in the heart of the Avon River Precinct between the Town Hall and Margaret Mahy Playground, it will be a place that locals and visitors alike can gain knowledge and inspiration about sustainable food systems in practice. 

The edible park will feature a heritage orchard, multiple herbs and vegetable beds showcasing a variety of growing techniques, a solarium for year-round growing space and educational workshops, an amphitheatre for public gatherings and events. 

The local food community centre will be a 190sqm highly sustainable building that will be the public face and engagement point for the burgeoning local food movement. It will house office and co-working space for community organisations catalysing food resilience, have informational displays about growing food and edible gardens around the city, and bookable event and meeting spaces (one small, one large) to host community functions. The building will also host a social enterprise canteen run by a collaboration of 4 local community organisations.

  30 June 2015 -  North Frame Urban Planning workshop -  Canterbury Horticultural Society

4-month recap
Project Description (word creation)
Governance Arrangements
Funding applications under S&H umbrella; the relationship between S&A and CHS; complications
Organisation Structure
Commitment/ degree of involvement
Needs of the groups involved
Key outcomes for the project
Site Design Workshop
Mapping needs of users of the site
Expanding our understanding of individual elements of the site
Starting to sketch these onto a site plan

1 July 2015 - Design Group

There are 4 of us on this team Stefan Wood, Jane Ash, Gordyn Hamlyn, Lillee Star.

We pulled on the information from 30th to help shape the initial elements, exploring social/culture, education/knowledge, building & structures, retail/ trading. Over the next week, we spent time researching ideas for the site based on the initial element, we looked to what others had done around the world, and looked for images of what inspired us and could work with our design. This is a favourite part of the design for me, I love images and brainstorming the creative vision to inspire to design.

We covered - Entrances; Pathways; Signage; Seating, Lighting; Structures - eco-building, storage, nursery space, pagoda's; Water systems; Amphitheatres; Green Roofs; Different food production options; Kids play spaces; and Art integration throughout the site.

 11 July 2015 -  Site visit for measurements, brainstorm input-output analysis, the natural flow of the site, observations of our surroundings. Who were our neighbours, what were they doing? How do we bridge these edges?

 15 July 2015 - Design Group

Initial sketches presented to the group, refining ideas presented, what works and doesn't. Brain-storming and sketching out more ideas. A base map and shaping starting to form.

23 July 2015 - 1st design feedback presented to FRN

Hot conversation around the work we had done, the initial visuals and outcomes, loads of feedback and add-in’s - overall good outcome and plenty to work on for the next stage.


1: Production - of seasonal local nutritional food.

2: Organisational Hub - for community food resilience.

3: Education Centre - for hands-on skill & knowledge development.

4: Sustainable Social Enterprise - cafe/ shop, consultancy, work/ meeting space, and workshops.

5: Community Building - through social gatherings, entertainment, eating, and sharing.


28 July 2015 - Plains FM radio interview on Permaculture with Mary Tinge for Garden 2 Fork program - to air 18 Sept … So nerve-racking, never done anything like this before… a few false starts though got there!

 30 July 2015 - Design concept was taken to Matapopore (Ngai Tuahuriri) for feedback

2 August 2015 - Growing Food in the Residential Red Zone (RRZ) Workshop Process, and Things we need! Public feedback sought at Botanic Gardens workshop

Table One: Dream Big  - The purpose of this table is to encourage people to get all their wildest dreams and aspirations for growing food

Facilitators: Janne Pasco, Allan Paterson

Table Two: Constraints, Opportunities and Other Proposals - The purpose of this collection of tables is to give people the opportunity to learn more about the realities of the RRZ.


Other proposals/projects: - Teoti Jardine: Mahinga Kai Exemplar; Lillee Star: North Frame Proposal; ?: Water for Life/ Eden NZ (TBC); Evan Smith: EVOSPACE

Constraints: - ?: Flood (Evan approaching Helen Beaumont); - ?: Contamination (Evan approaching Chrissie Williams for idea of who)

Opportunities: -- Krystina Hill: Heritage Fruit Archive

Table Three: Refined Ideas - Facilitators at this workshop will have a large map of the RRZ to work with and large sheets of paper to record thoughts.

Facilitators: Gordyn Hamblyn; Mary Tingey; Tony Moore

 5 August 2015 - North Frame Community Garden Stakeholders Workshop

Internal stakeholders - Governance arrangements

Design team update and identify the FRN process of work need to get the final presentation of our EOI.


Outline who is being asked for their views, and the consultation timeline:

 10 August: EOI response begun - 16 August: deadline for feedback - 19 August: Summarised feedback taken to FRN Steering group, with the draft EOI response - 20 August: Summarised feedback circulated to Stakeholder groups - 21 August: Costings process started - 26 August: EOI documentation finalised.

 27 August 2015 - I presented the final EOI Design at the Canterbury Community Gardens Associations’ AGM. Great feedback on the work we had done, plus plenty of ideas and connections made the future.

28 August 2015 - EOI submitted to CERA - 7 September: CERA will notify us of the outcome.

The last few months were full-on processes. I was heavily involved in this project, study Organic Horticultural,  Took on a new role at the Harbour co-op as Shop Manager and organise an annual event for PiNZ, all whilst trying to be a good partner, care for my garden and to be a human being in society. 

 September 2015  - The Steering Group recommended to the wider Network that it become a separate legal entity. This was approved at the Round Table meeting. Note, this is after two years of being under Soil & Health’s umbrella.

I then headed out of town for my Sumner role at Luminate Festival. Unfortunately, I missing the celebration of acceptance of our Expression of Interest, and I  was still away when the official opening of the site happened… 


13 February - The Opening of the North Frame site: Otakaro Orchard

 Also to happen in Feb was the release of Residential Red Zone Survey

 Thanking our Pledge me Sponsors on the side our community shed.

 19 March 2016 - Intentional offers festival -St Mary’s Church Addington

Promoting Otakaro Orchard Garden and Food Hub happening on Cambridge Terrace in Christchurch city centre and also The Harbour Co-op an organic whole food store in Lyttelton owned by 205 members of the community… Talk to people about Food Forest principles and building interest around community involvement for future group work on Otakaro Orchard.


April 16-21 2016 - I went to Solscape in Raglan to do my Permaculture Teacher’s Training course with Robina McCurdy, Finn Mackesy, & Dan Palmer… Wow, this was an intense course of so much I can bring back to the work I’m doing in Canterbury.

Second Stage was the Planting Plan.

Using the zoned areas, shown above left, as a starting space we created a list of trees and plants donated, desire varieties for the site conditions, and what would the plant guilds look like. Above right was our first go out layout options of the trees to the size of space. And over time we chose to lesson the high canopy trees to have more view lines through the site and allow for more understory planting.


Peter Wells (from Seatle who worked on the Beacon Food Forest Project), Goom Landscapers & Otakaro Limited came on board to help our design onto paper to identify the scale, landscaping materials, budget and timeline needed to take our design to implementation phase that would bring to life.

After our layout of the fruit trees and shrubs were agreed upon by the design team, this was passed on to Goom and the team working on the irrigation system for our site.

 July 2018 - Groundwork on-site starts

To help with drainage, 100mm of AP40 gravel forms the site foundation. On top of this is goes 300mm of soil, 100mm of compost, and lots of mulch.

26 July 2017- Making site for tree planting

When we arrived on site it didn't take long to see that the site foundations weren't right. The amphitheater was much larger and in the wrong location, and we had lost a lot of our planting space. We spent a good chunk of time having to mark out where the beds should start before we could get round to marking the locations for each tree space, ready for the digger and the planting days to come. Those involved to shape the land had tech equipment to mark out the site, us, a tape measure our feet & our eyes.


I decided at this point to leave the project and go back to the routes of why I got involved at the start. To focus on the permaculture education and building community capacity at a grass-roots level.

It was clear from the work I was doing with the FRN that Permaculture Education was something that was missing for the developing work we were all doing. To be able to engage and empower the local community to take ownership of their local food sovereignty and the local land governance to produce it. To learn the tools and techniques to adapt their own environment to support local food systems to help bring about the bigger vision of A patchwork of food growing at local hotspots, linked together like a ribbon and woven into the fabric of our communities’. 

Being part of this project has been a great experience, and has given me a lot of perspective on how the urban design process works. I have questioned a lot of the processes, especially when the design started dropping the permaculture perspective it held in the early visioning, along with how the team function and supports each other during the development phase. These compromises lead to a disharmony within me, I figured out where my boundaries, and what truth and comprise I was not willing to expect anymore.

The amount of time, money and energy that has gone into this one site, could have produced multiple small-sites, given many communities the hotspots for Christchurch that would work towards the bigger vision of food security for Canterbury, and maybe achieve it a lot sooner than this site could come to completion. Finance has been the biggest struggle. To met urban standards of design with a community-led grass-roots vision is extremely hard work. I am proud of all who have been involved and dedicated to making this happen.

This is an amazing edge-leading project and has got to be one of the faces for the future of what our city will become, and for that, I am grateful to have been part of such a significant movement in the rebuild of Christchurch City.


19 July 2017- Selective hole digging for the larger trees & 7 August - Planting day



Regular working bees have been held to mulch the large planting area. Kerry Mulligan (picture below) has been holding a multitude of workshop on adobe bricks for the west wall of the cafe/ hub building.

Aerial Video in July

In progress on-site, August & September have been a whirlwind as construction has proceeded on the project, foundations were poured on August 29th, steel framing is being installed, and timber has arrived on site! The roof is taking shape and we're still on track for a February completion!

For several months we've been asking for champions to step forward with major support; if this does appear within the next two weeks, we will have to stop construction and wind the project down. Adhering to due diligence, the completion of the building has always been contingent on securing a majority of capital needed to cover all of the project's costs; the building, landscape, and coordination included. All together we need to raise $997,000

It's a daunting task, but in the last few weeks we've had some breakthroughs, we've had one underwriter step forward with $150,000 to toward our bridging capital and are awaiting news from several others. 

Images and 3 paragraphs above are from the Otakaro Orchard’s latest newsletter and facebook page


New Adventures

April 2017

At the National Hui this year, I was nominated to join the PiNZ council, and after not much thought was keen to be on board. This was a big turning point as all but 1 council member, Nandor Tanzcos the Chair, set down, and 8 new members set in!


7 us join together and create an education group that would form a Permaculture Design Certificate course for the Canterbury Region. Dana Dopleach, Lisa Bevan, Aaron Clift, Alison Mccoll, Gordyn Hamlyn, Robina McCurdy (advisor) and myself - Lillee Star.


We came together for a weekend workshop to work through the nuts and bolts of a PDC.  It was a great process to see the different format possibilities and find out how the group would work best. We looked at all the components that would make up the topics of a PDC and how they would be grouped and how that would sit within a year-long course.

July & August

Time was spent on what the name of our entity would be. This was an interesting process with 6 of us exploring ideas. It also brought up a lot about the company structure to be a company or a trust, the function of our roles, and the essence of our intent and how we wish to engage with our community. We had 25 arrangements of name possibilities and after a lot of discussion and back and forward motion, we chose Canterbury Permaculture Institute.

Also in this time, we said goodbye to 2 of our team, Lisa Bevan who had new adventures overseas and Gordyn Hamlyn who was overloaded with work and did not have the capacity anymore.

We registered our business in August and on 3rd Oct we became official with 4 of us as Directors. So invigorating to get to this stage, establishing ourselves as professionals and providing an educational service to our community. To put another permaculture out into the world, it was such a proud moment for us all. 


We starting design our Intro to Permaculture course, looking at budgets, tools - domain name, and proposed timeline for courses.


We use the Lean Canvas Model to look deeply at the strategic development of the business, to understand our market, how we position ourselves and look to where and how we would work best. Branding and advertising were next on our mission after this. Plus what locations were available for teaching at.


We started work on a permaculture the card game to demonstrate a broad topic of concepts that, most of which would be covered in the PDC. We wanted a way to showcase the diversity of permaculture and give them a taste of what they would be learning if the signed up. We also made a point of starting with local representation, then national and only on a few cards did we feature content that was global.

This took us a lot longer than we imagined. We all had full-time jobs and a life full of commitments. We have met fortnightly as a group for most of the year working on the business and this still was happening alongside the research needed to create these cards. We have been an ebb and flowed from then on til the completion and in December was clear that Aaron was over-committed and had to step out also. Not long after his marriage at New Year, he moved with his family to Melbourne and donated his share back to the group.

We continued to meet and develop the cards until we felt super satisfied with our efforts. Which would not have been possible if we were not using Trello. I use this tool for all my projects now!

And then the time came for us to try them out!

8 April 2018 - Pilot of the Intro to Permaculture course

Wow, this was an amazing day, to really test out all our hard work on trusted friends who gave us great feedback on work works well and what could do with a bit of tweaking. 

22 April - Horticultural Show at the Botanical Gardens

We got to showcase our new permaculture card game, promote our business and get sign up to our next intro course and email list. Such a great boast for us!

10 June - Intro to Permaculture Course.

This was a scary and fun day. To be present and engaged with strangers, making sure that their educational needs were met, and to present yourself as a teacher was a new awareness to take on. There was definitely way more tweaking needed on the format of this course through their observations and feedback received. 


Just after this course, I flew to England for 5 months missing winter and taking time to recover from the enormous workload I had over the last 3  years. I hadn’t been back in 10 years so took the chance after leaving my Managers role at the Harbour Co-op to step back to my roots.

Dana and Alison continued with another Intro courses in September which led to refining the format and elements of the card game. I spent time working on the look and design of the PDC course, though being on the other side of the world communicating was hard and time commitments of Dana and Alison, made it clear that launch of the course in Feb was not going to be possible. So again, another period of holding the version, and through this time we had Alison leave as her work commitment had extended and time for CPI was not possible.

I got back to NZ in November and jumped straight into the permaculture train. Robina and I got on a road trip South holding workshops and visit sites for the potential site visit for the tour after the National hui next April. Dunedin onto to Riverton to meet to stay with Robyn & Robert Guyton for 5 days to work on the structure and set up for the Hui and onto Wanka and back up to Christchurch. It was a wonderful step back into NZ.

After that trip, I moved up to Golden Bay again for my summer role with Luminate Festival and to spend time with family and friends.


1 March I landed back in Christchurch after a summer in Golden Bay to a  new home and job opportunity that backfired dramatically. I came to a point of focus where I decided to spend my time fully on getting Canterbury Permaculture Institute into action for the next stage of our plan. To get the PDC course up and running this Spring. 6 months shape all the ideas into a course and advertise and get people on board to make this happen. That it would be now or never for me, and if this didn’t work, then I would move to Plan B, move away from Canterbury and start a new adventure of living self-sufficiently of the land in an intentional community.


We also got to hold a workshop at the Hui to introduce it for peer review, this brought about more changes, mostly due to examples used that now longer were running...good learning point for the rest of the cards to stand the test of time.

After getting back from the National Permaculture Hui in Riverton I started work on our new website and within a month we were live and promoting ourselves and the courses we wish to hold. 

There also was a new level of interest and support from new and old friends that had also joined came to the Hui Southland. Dana Dopleach, Roz Rolls, Niki Jones, Lily White, and Zane Crofts are the new permaculture collective that meets regularly to support each other's work. And from this have gained a lot more input in the development of Canterbury Permaculture Institute. And gain new partnerships that will be of great benefit to making the PDC come to life!

I next spent time update the foundations of the website to represent our group… promoting us as… A group of professional permaculturalist who consult, design, implement and teach within the Canterbury region. Who hold permaculture, its ethics, and principles within our daily lives and believe that it has the tools and processes to aid us all in the changing times. And, help us to become more empowered and self resilient, whilst giving back to our living support system, Planet Earth.

The rest of the winter I identify the learning objectives and outcomes, creating lesson plans, searching out places or projects that could be onsite teaching locations, creating promotional material and organising who would be able to teach the different components of the course.

30 June - Our first promotion is out for the PDC course!!

Our Permaculture Design Course is divided into 10 modules, held over a 13-month period offered in a two-day weekend format. This allows us the time to see permaculture through the seasons and to absorb the knowledge fully. We also have created a format that opens up the course for people to just be involved in a specialist workshop subject either for a whole weekend or just a morning. Another reason we chose to step away from the usual consecutive 20-days model, is to make accessing permaculture information and certification easier for those who have full-time work and family life, who can't take 2-3 weeks off to do a Residential Course.

 4 July We had our first sign up to the PDC course, and this brought on another wave of is happening we are really gonna be doing this!!

July & August - Was spent refining our plan of action for the locations and workshops format we had, creating content for the website, continual promotion and searching through folders of content material collected over the last 5 years from varying locations.

I also got approved to be an Affiliated PiNZ Teacher, this was such a big boast… so great to be able to point this endorsement on our certificates.

25 August - Dana & Roz held another Intro to Permaculture Course

September - Only 2 weeks to the course start!!! The pressure was really building here and the feeling of not being prepared enough or ready was strong. I did swallow this down and kept going and then the weekend arrived.

14 & 15 Philosophy & Design - Such an enjoyable time we had this weekend. Our group are all knowledge in so many areas that compliment to permaculture, we had great discussions on so many topics, as you would do when covering the large topic this module.

Below is our core group - Sophia, Ra, Kelly, John, Gail, Danielle, (in the middle) Hannah and Dana; Damiet, Lillee, Kai, and Roz

We are really looking forward to our 2nd module Water & Soil Oct 19-10. We have more people joining us for this weekend and for the other modules over the year, some who couldn’t join us for the 1st who wish to do the course over 2 years. It will be interesting to see which weekends we will get the most interest.

17 September - We also took another big step this week, CPI has taken on its first contract, Sustainable Bays has taken us on as the Learning Exchange (Food Forest) Coordinator. We have a year to run workshops, working bee’s and establish the 3rd installment of the planting for this site. I am really excited about this as I was part of the group that got this site started in 2012

It’s been four and a half years since our first meeting to conceptualise this idea at the National Hui … 

It has been a tough thing for me to hold, to feel the confidence and ability to pull this off, I had been looking a lot to others to be the lead this idea, to others I could work with to make this happen, to others who would be more experienced than me. 

The conclusion I’ve come to is that, if you have the passion and the energy for an idea, and there is no-one else doing it, then you are the right person to do it, you are the only expert (no matter what level you are at) standing up in your area. And as you grow through the process, more knowledge, understanding, and support will come to aid you to make it all come to life. Patience, commitment, timing, observation, awareness, and so many more words that pop up and the right time to let you know your on the right path.

I have learned so much from this process and I keep going with that learning. I said to our  PDC group on the weekend, that I am just a facilitator of this course, we all hold knowledge and experience that we can learn from each other. I am brimming with anticipation for what we are going to learn from this course, and from the open future of where Canterbury Permaculture Institute will take us.