Permaculture in the Manawatu

Permaculture in the Manawatu


A community group in Ashhurst, Manawatu is making positive and steady progress sharing permaculture concepts with the public in the local region and beyond.

The Society for the Resilience and Engagement of the Community of Ashhurst and Pohangina, or RECAP ( as it is known, was created on the wave of Transition Towns culture.  Its mission is to promote the sustainability, diversity, and resilience of the Ashhurst and Pohangina region.  It does this by community education focused on permaculture using a combination of workshops, seminars, films and modular approach to teaching the Permaculture Design Certificate.  While the target audience is our local area, participants come from the wider Manawatu area and beyond.

The permaculture course is composed of 12 full-day modules delivered over the year with lectures, discussion, hands-on workshops and other activities designed to trigger alternative thinking on how to incorporate permaculture principles to work with nature, rather than try to rule it.  The intervals between teaching sessions enable participants time to put theory into practice in their own living spaces.

One example is a community garden slowly evolving in the grounds of the Ashhurst Library.  Formerly the town's Post Office and postmaster's residence, the garden had become bare lawn with a couple of trees.  On the back of a permaculture design project, various plans have evolved.  Garden beds are now in place, fruit trees are bearing fruit, compost heaps and water harvesting are in place and an earth seat has been constructed A wide range of design projects has been presented by graduating students.  Some of these have led to bigger projects supported by their local communities.

These projects have required the agreement of the Palmerston North City Council who has responsibility for the site.  There are benefits for all as the community learns what can be done in a backyard garden, while still providing open activity space.  Vegetable and fruit produce is shared with the public as this a demonstration education garden.  Children have been involved in selecting and planting the flowers and herbs which bloom and give joy to those who visit.  Various aspects of the garden are used in hands-on workshops to deliver modules for the permaculture course. by many helping hands.  

To cap it off, RECAP participants volunteer in these City Council spaces, tending the gardens, educating those who look around and ask questions, and supporting children’s clubs and other community groups when they ask to participate.  In all, a great combination of permaculture design principles.   

A similar combination of factors led to the creation of the Olsson Community Orchard.  Unused council land next to a native bush remnant was a mixture of grass and blackberry wasteland.  It is now a maturing fruit and nut orchard with more than 30 trees in place.  The orchard provides the venue for public pruning and compost making workshops.  Participants learn new skills while pruning the trees, or gathering material and building a compost heap.  These are mutually beneficial activities at a nominal cost which combines education with the care of the trees and the creation of compost for all the RECAP gardens.

Other projects have triggered local economic initiatives, encompassing a local community market, a community currency and savings pools under the auspices or RECAP’s sister society, LEAP (

Although the group is largely volunteer driven, it appreciates the support from primary funders of Palmerston North City Council and Lotteries, along with other funding bodies. These funders have been generous with RECAP in large part because of our high level of volunteering, charitable status, and our mission of sustainable community development, with permaculture education serving as a means to this end. Funding enables RECAP to employ a part-time coordinator and an administrator and subsidises access to the range of educational activities for a wide range of people.


Harvey Jones

Chairperson RECAP




Resilience Coordinator -

A part-time position with RECAP, as Resilience Coordinator, is available to take effect from January 2019. Check out their website for full description,