Profiling Petra Stephenson
PERMACULTURE DESIGNER from NELSON PROVINCE
Petra is originally from Germany, settled in New Zealand in her university student years, and in 1995 completed a permaculture design course that changed her life. In 2010 she received her Diploma in Environmental Management from Massey University, which nowadays gives her an edge in dealing with councils regarding Resource Consents for her clients. In 2014 Petra took courses in earthworks for water management and Elaine Inghams soil food-web biology. She was well on the path to becoming a Permaculture Consultant! In 2017, she founded her current business, ‘Living Soils Ltd’ and in 2018 she was awarded her Permaculture Diploma. Over the last few years, she has been designing edible landscapes for city sections and lifestyle block owners – with attention to soil fertility, water resilience, and energy efficiency to combat climate change and associated weather extremes.
As a self-taught learner, Petra has kept abreast of graphic design software development, selecting the programmes best suited to her Permaculture approach. This gives her a professional leading edge and enables her to work effectively online with clients around the country – and the world. As a positive spinoff from attending IFOAM’s World Organic Conference (), over the last year is working in Kerala, India, helping traditional ‘farmer-scientists’ research and document their innovative horticultural organic practices, in association with local universities.
Petra’s first taste of full-scale design was early on when she and Andrew designed their 8 hectares near Tauranga property, which incorporated an energy efficient home, with abundant garden, orchard, woodlot and livestock paddocks. Scaling down to their purpose-designed multi-functional house-bus gave Petra the experience living completely off-grid.
Together with Danielle Lomas Petra formed ‘Our Kai Motueka’ in 2015, and together they teamed up with Keep Motueka Beautiful and obtained funding from the Fonterra Grassroots Fund to purchase 84 trees, shrubs, plants and seeds, planted in a day by 50 local community volunteers. With this, they created Motueka’s first Food Forest in Ledger Goodman Park, with the aim of providing a meeting point for the neighbourhood, with ‘free snacks’, and education about growing food. The next (NBS funded) Food Forest will be planted behind the community gardens, linking in with the walkways and cycleways around the estuary.
Although Petra is active in complementary currencies locally in her Motueka-Nelson area and is a presenter on Savings Pools and Time Banks, she has a knack for attracting a decent amount of cash for community projects too. Last year she was successful in obtaining funding from a range of sponsors, to initiate ‘Kai Fest Motueka’ to foster local food awareness and food resilience. This was attended by around 4000 people on each of its two years, crowds being attracted by its vibrancy and diversity of things to do. Kai Fest offered displays, entertainment, children’s games, parade, pageant, and around 100 stalls. With a focus was on locally grown, Motueka produced wines, ciders, and hop-based beverages proved really popular! To find out more about Kai Fest, go to or their Facebook page.