Triage Permaculture: Healing the Land

Sustainability is not enough. We need regenerative approaches to taking on the challenges facing humanity and all life on earth. As with all of the permaculture principles, regenerative design thinking can be applied to every aspect of modern human existence. Bringing land back to health is just one example.

On Kaitiaki Farm we have been bringing a worn-out horse property back to health for the last three years. For the most part the results have been incredible so far. This area was mostly bare soil with a light covering of thistles three years ago. Now it has a complete blanket of grass and not a thistle in sight.

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On the slope just below it we’ve planted manuka and poplars.

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Below that we planted tagasaste.

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And further down there are now olives and then avocados.

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And finally – at the bottom of the valley – we’ve fenced the stream and planted 1,500 native trees, shrubs and grasses.


Elsewhere on the farm we’re also seeing great recovery. The slope below suffered a major slip during the floods of 2015. We have worked hard to protect and restore the hillside since then.

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All of this planting means lots of propagation. Here are 4 trays of tagasaste grown from seed.

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Additionally we buy in and have donated hundreds of native plants.

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On this farm we’re taking the long view. Investing in erosion control, soil health, and water management now will pay dividends in the future. I call this “triage permaculture.” Vegetable gardens can come later.


Peace, Estwing

Kaitiaki Farm Tour – 10th September

Kaitiaki Farm is among the most diverse permaculture farms in New Zealand. Our holistic approach to land management includes all of the 13 acres – taking advantage of micro-climates, soil types, and hydrology.

The farm is opened twice a year to the public: September and March.

“Wow, totally inspiring.” – Tour Participant

As part of the 5th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend we are offering a walking farm tour on Sunday 10th September from 9:30-12:30. The tour will cover: organic market gardening; the best tools for farm and garden management; tractoring fowl; water management; building soil fertility; wind breaks; orchard planning; erosion control; slope stabilisation; stock rotation; wetland restoration; and, eco-building.

223 No. 2 Line. Please park on the road. $25 per person.

Stay-and-Learn B&B packages available for out-of-town guests.

theecoschool at

Passive Solar Design: Free Heat in Winter

Six years ago New Zealand experienced the coldest week in recorded history, but our recently finished passive solar villa performed perfectly during the cold snap. Even with single-glazing in much of our home, it stayed warm during the frigid week without using any heat source other than the sun. (Of course the curtains and blinds did their job at night.)

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Here is a blog post I wrote six years ago today that explains the great result:

Here is a blog post written a month later that explains how and why the sun can be used to heat a home in winter for free.


Peace, Estwing

5th Annual Permaculture Weekend

Whanganui Permaculture Weekend is a grass roots, dirt-under-your-fingernails, no nonsense event for anyone serious about realistic solutions for a troubled world. This is one place that Whanganui punches above it’s weight – with some of the best permaculturists and educators in the nation.

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The 5th annual event features at least four workshops by Whanganui locals who are the top of their field in New Zealand. Yet despite this expertise all the programmes are offered at affordable rates – most likely the best value weekend of learning anywhere in the country.

And we’re doing our best to make the event child-friendly this year, with a number of great workshops focused on children, including Rope Making and Rourou Making, Outdoor Classrooms, and an up-close-with-farm-animals BBQ on Saturday night.

See schedule below.

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Saturday, 9th Sept.

9-12 Tools for a Resilient Household: broad forks, solar ovens, rocket stoves, stirrup hoes, permaculture books, permaculture calendars. REBS Stall, River Market, Taupo Quay

9:30-11:00 Tour of wetland restoration and hillsides post slips. Mount St. Joseph. 14 Hillside Terrace. Noelene Landrigan

**CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER** 11-1 Rope Making and Rourou Making, Tracey Young, River Market near i-site. Donation

11:30 – 12:30 UCOL Organic Agriculture Course & Online PDC. Richard Pedley. UCOL Complex main entrance, Taupo Quay. Free

1-3 “Intro to the Community Game” WRRC Education Room, 83 Maria Place. Laurence Boomert.

1:30-3:30 Suburban Permaculture Property Tour. 106 Matai St. Phil Holden. By Donation.

2-3 Backyard Chickens. Kaitiaki Farm, 223 No. 2 Line. Cyd Welsh & Nelson Lebo $10

3-4 DIY Chicken Tractors Kits. Flat packs for sale – $70

4-5 pm Hot Composting for Serious Gardeners. Kaitiaki Farm, 223 No. 2 Line. Nelson Lebo. Free

5:30-7:00 pm Shared Meal BBQ. Kaitiaki Farm, 223 No. 2 Line. CANCELED EXCEPT FOR OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS.


Overnight accommodation available. (See Below.)


Sunday, 10th Sept.

9:30 – 12:30 Kaitiaki Farm Tour. 223 No. 2 Line. Nelson Lebo. $25

1-4 Fruit Tree and Vine Care. 126 Springvale Road. Murray Jones. $20

1:30-3:30 Outdoor Classrooms for Children. Kaitiaki Farm, 223 No. 2 Line. Dani Lebo. By Donation

2-4 Seed Swap. Whanganui Seed Savers. Quaker Meeting House, Wicksteed St. By Donation

3:30 – 5:00 Tree Planting. Kaitiaki Farm, 223 No. 2 Line. Free


B&B Packages include accommodation, dinner on Saturday, breakfast on Sunday and admission to all workshops.

Studio: Couple/family with en suite. $190. BOOKED

Private room/shared bathroom: $170/couple or $95 per person.

Valley Shelter Sleepout: $85 BOOKED

Camping: $75 per person. FULLY BOOKED

Three Years on the Land

After three years of good design and hard work, we have transformed a worn out horse property into one of New Zealand’s premier permaculture farms. Significantly, we have done this on a tiny budget and with no heavy equipment or contractors. A massive thanks goes out to our fantastic interns who have come from over a dozen countries to help with the ‘human-scale’ transformation of the land.

Kaitiaki Farm has a bit of everything permaculture: organic market gardens; perennial orchards; swales and ponds; tractored poultry; alternative energy; integrated food systems; wetland restoration; riparian corridors; innovative construction techniques; creative reuse; and community involvement.

Our education programmes are world-leading, most notably the eight-week PDC Work-Study Internship, which is fully enrolled until the middle of 2018. We believe that the highest quality education should be affordable for anyone, not just those who can afford to go to expensive weekend workshops.

We have been privileged and humbled to be educating the next generation of permaculturists who will change the world for the better. Our dedication to people and the planet will continue to guide the development of Kaitiaki Farm and the innovative programmes offered here.

Thanks to all our supporters over the years and we look forward to even greater success in the future!

Peace, Estwing