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Whanganui Permaculture Weekend

4th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend

 

Whanganui’s premier sustainability event is back for a forth year with a fantastic line up of events during the weekend of September 10th-11th.

The Whanganui Permaculture Weekend highlights innovative local projects, offers hands-on workshops, a seed swap, working bee, shared meal and movie night. Education is a highlight of this year’s programme, which includes highlights of teaching and learning at the secondary school level, the tertiary level, and adult learning.

Richard Pedley of Wanganui Collegiate will share the school’s new agriculture programme with a presentation and tour. The theme or Richard’s offering is permaculture education in schools. The school’s website describes the new programme as follows:

“At Wanganui Collegiate School we are offering an agriculture programme aiming to prepare students for a dynamic and fast changing future, with a growing awareness of sustainably produced, local, high quality food.”

Jake Schultz of Universal College of Learning (UCOL) will provide an overview of two new course offerings: Certificate in Apiculture (beekeeping); and, Sustainable Agriculture. Describing these courses, Jake says,

“Food and everything that surrounds it is the property that brings us all together, no matter what part of the planet you are from. Within that, the sustainability of our food systems and the future of it is key. Because without it, we lose everything.”

The Permaculture Weekend wraps up Adult Learners’ Week/He Tangata Mātauranga, which is brought to the River City by Adult and Community Education Aotearoa, the Whanganui Learning Centre, and The ECO School. On Saturday Nelson Lebo of the ECO School will offer two workshops on backyard food production: an introduction to organic gardening and fruit tree care, and an organic gardening master class.

When it comes to organic production, Nelson says, “It’s all about working smarter rather than working harder. My motto is tools, timing and technique: using the right tools at the right times in the right ways. That’s how you get 10 hours of work done in five hours.” Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 6.22.08 am

Some events are offered on a donation basis while fees may apply to others. Some are free. The full schedule is below. Free if otherwise noted.

 

Saturday, 10th September

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

10-11 Introduction to organic gardening and fruit tree care, Nelson Lebo, Moutoa Gardens

11-1 Rope Making and Rourou Making, Tracey Young, River Market. Meet river side of i-site.

1-3 New UCOL Programmes: Bee Keeping and Organic Gardening. Jake Schultz. Room E-2-15, UCOL Complex, Taupo Quay

2-5 Organic Gardening Master Class. Nelson Lebo. Registration and fee: theecoschool@gmail.com

2.30-3.30 Composting workshops – Theory – Hadi Gurton, 83 Maria Place Extension

3.45-5 Composting workshop – Practical  – Rachel Rose, 77 Anzac Parade.

 

Sunday, 11th September

8:30-10 Permaculture in Schools. Richard Pedley, Wanganui Collegiate School

10-12 Matai Street Community Garden Tour and Working Bee. Phil Holden. Matai Street. By donation

12:30-2 DIY Weta Hotels for children. Dani Lebo, 223 No. 2 Line. Materials fee

2-4 Seed Swap. Whanganui Seed Savers. Quaker Meeting House, 256 Wicksteed St. By donation

3-5:30 Wetland Restoration Working Bee. 223 No. 2 Line

6-7:30 Shared Meal, 217 No. 2 Line

7:30-8:30 Film: Origin of the Apple, 217 No. 2 Line

Waste not, want not, says mayoral candidate

From the Wanganui Chronicle.

Wasted time. Wasted money. Wasted opportunity. These are the things that have defined Whanganui for far too long.

So says eco-entrepeneur Nelson Lebo who today announces his candidacy for mayor of the city.

“If we’re so good at waste, let’s make it our primary industry,” said Dr Lebo, who joins deputy mayor Hamish McDouall and councillor Helen Craig in standing for the mayoralty at October’s local body elections. Launching his campaign with the slogan “Our Waste is Our Salvation” along with the hashtag #WastedLebo, he wants to revitalise Whanganui’s economy, create jobs and cut rates, according to his 280-page manifesto titled What Whaste Whanganui?

His ambitious plan is based around a complete alternative to the council’s proposed $38million wastewater treatment plant, dealing with the waste disposal issue at no cost and, he claims, actually producing revenue.

According to Dr Lebo’s calculations, the construction costs for the new plant, plus interest and operating costs, translates to $80 million over the next 20 years.

“We take $20 million of that and install composting toilets in every household in Whanganui,” he told the Chronicle.

“We manage the collection of the composted ‘night soil’ by forming a council-controlled enterprise and profits from the compost are reinvested to repay the initial $20 million investment over 20 years for a net zero cost to ratepayers.”

The fats and proteins from the Heads Rd industry waste would be directed to a new soap-making company; while organic industrial waste would be made into compost and sold.

“In a strange twist of fate, it may turn out that the very substances that caused the pong can be turned into cha-ching,” he said.

Dr Lebo, an American eco-designer who has lived in Whanganui for more than five years, has secured preliminary rights for the Australasian franchise of the Paper Street Soap Company.

“My colleague in the United States, Tyler Durden, is excited to expand his soap company franchise to this region of the world but, at this stage, is not prepared to talk about it.”

As for the wastewater treatment plant, in almost presidential style, Dr Lebo declared: “We will build a wall around it and we’ll make MWH pay for it!”

Wanganui Chronicle

My Farm Truck

Farm trucks – aka “Utes” in New Zealand – are very expensive. Aside from having four wheel drive, I can’t think of anything an expensive, grunty ute can do that my $1,000 Subaru Legacy can’t. With a tow ball and trailer I can collect 700 kgs of kibbled maize. With a roof rack I can carry 6 metre lengths of fence rail.

Recently I had to transport materials for a shelter from the top of our property to the bottom. It’s about half a kilometre and a couple hundred metre drop in elevation. I loaded the Suby.

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Getting the large, heavy window on top was a challenge by myself. (More on that later.)

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But definitely doable.

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The shelter will have an amazing view of this native bush, along with a re-established wetland. It will measure 2.4 m x 2.4 m x 2.4 m.

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Getting the window off was moderately easier than getting the window on, but basically the same process but in reverse.

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This ply is actually a part of the sleep out, but doubles here as a ramp.

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Easy does it.

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And stored off the ground until next Sunday when we have a working bee to erect the structure.

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On the way back up I collected firewood.

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I cut these lengths about 2 months ago. It’s still heavy.

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Job done. Surf’s up!

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Chur, Estwing

Ecological Farming is the Most Affordable Option

Editor’s Note: This is another weekly column in the Wanganui Chronicle.

I could not agree more with Wanganui provincial president of Federated Farmers, Brian Doughty, and his recent thoughts on the damage caused to vulnerable slopes due to outdated management practices and June’s weather bomb: “We need, at least, to think outside the square in an attempt to minimise the effects from an ever-increasing number of these storm events because it will happen again.” Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 9.45.38 am

A difficult and costly repair job after the flood.

From my reading of Brian’s Conservation Comment, he makes two main points in the second half of the piece: 1) climate change will bring more frequent extreme weather events; 2) redesigning our farms to work more closely with nature will save farmers money in the long run. As any regular reader of this column recognises, these are two of the central tenants of eco-thrifty renovation.

When eco-thrifty thinking is applied to the land it can be called “holistic land management” or “permaculture” or “ecological farming.” Whatever you call it, it relies heavily on pattern recognition. Specifically, the patterns that Brian addresses are ridges and gulleys and the best locations to place tracks and fences within the landscape to minimise damage from slips. This is sage advice, and we wish Brian could have been on the committee that chose to move the Sargent Gallery into a floodplain.

Designing with recognition for the patterns in nature has two clear advantages for farmers: 1) higher productivity; 2) greater resilience. In the day-to-day workings of a farm, holistically managed farms are more profitable, and during extreme weather events – either storm or extended drought – are more resilient.

And who would have guessed that ex-farmer and current Letters writer G.R. Scown was an eco-farmer long before it was fashionable?!? I admit to pleasant surprise as he waxed eloquently (Letters, 22-10-15) about worms, soil bacteria, humus, moisture retention and seaweed.

Similarly, I have experienced great results in pasture quality using some of the methods Scown describes along with rotational grazing. The result is a win-win-win situation that includes a healthier mix of pasture species, healthier animals (from eating better plants), and a resilient farm better able to weather both ends of predicted weather extremes.

A recent study by researchers at Stanford and Berkeley published in the journal Nature concludes that, “Climate change could cause 10 times as much damage to the global economy as previously estimated, slashing output as much as 23 percent by the end of the century” (Bloomberg News). Another recent report identifies that “Land degradation is costing the world as much as $10.6 trillion every year, equivalent to 17% of global gross domestic product” (Guardian, 15-09-15).

But none of this would be news to our outstanding regional council. For a long time, Horizons has taken a holistic, proactive and hands-on approach to land management and working with farmers. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the leadership shown by Horizons and the high quality advice and support offered by expert professionals.

I have been impressed with more than one regional councillor’s understanding and advocacy for holistic perspectives on issues ranging from watershed management to environmental education. Getting rid of the “Green Rig”, for example, was an excellent decision.

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Poplar poles planted this winter on a vulnerable hillside. 

I have also worked with a number of Horizon’s staff on issues of soils, slopes and tree planting. The advice was top notch and the customer service outstanding. I actually enjoy paying my rates because I know my dollars are doing great work. Speaking of which, I seem to recall reading that the regional rates bill was going to increase by $2 per household to buy more poplar poles for farmers. I reckon that should be doubled because decades down the track we’ll all be better off for it.

– Estwing

Whanganui Permaculture Weekend: Guest Post by Patrick

Permacutlure weekend:

Enthusiasm, second only to the flu, has been the most highly infectious thing to hit Wanganui recently. It was the annual Permaculture weekend here in Wanganui a couple of weeks ago. Kelly and I hosted a solar oven and rocket stove demonstration near the Whanganui River during the weekend market. We had incredibly positive feedback and drew a surprisingly large crowd of enthusiastic locals as well as visitors during our two hour demo. It was great seeing so much excitement surrounding this straight forward, highly effective technology. Both the solar oven and the rocket stove are wonderful for camping, summer days when you don’t want to heat up the house, emergency preparedness, as well as reducing your energy costs throughout the year.

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We also attended a fruit tree pruning and grafting demonstration conducted by Murray Jones where we learned heaps of useful information about keeping your fruit trees happy, healthy and productive. These things are achieved through attentive, and sometimes aggressive pruning, to insure the removal of all dead wood as well as branches that grow straight up or back into the tree, robbing it of nutrients that could be put into the fruit or productive new growth. Training branches to reinforce the desired shape (a vase in this instance) was also covered.

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Shaping your tree is done so that fruit is easy to reach and to insure that all areas of the tree receive ample sunlight. Additionally there is at least one more advantage, it becomes possible to stand inside the frame of the tree when pruning time comes around in following seasons.

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Murray also gave a brief explanation of why it is advantageous to perform bud thinning. This task is performed when your fruit tree is blossoming, you go through and pick a portion of the blossoms so that your tree will produce fewer fruit of a much higher quality. Also there are times when you will remove a specific blossom or blossoms from a cluster so that the fruit has enough space to fully develop. It was stressed that each fruiting species will have individual needs as to how and when to prune or thin blossoms, the focus of the demo was on apples, plums and pears.

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In addition to the pruning work shop we attended a community seed swap at the Quaker House in Wanganui. This was a really cool event and started off with each person introducing his or herself to the group of attendees and including a bit about their gardening history. As with the previous demos there was a really large and enthusiastic turn out. Experience levels ranged from seasoned veterans to novice level gardeners/farmers. Some of the seeds and plants available included fryer’s hat hot chili peppers, giant pink banana pumpkin, Jack be little pumpkins (whole fruit), zucchini, American Paw Paw, a large variety of corn and beans, sunflower, marigold, and even a Brazilian native tree that produces vibrant red flowers and is best utilized as a windbreak/bird and bee fodder. Everyone at the seed swap was incredibly friendly, enthusiastic and excited to learn or teach given their level of experience.

Next we went to a community screening of Inhabit, a documentary film showcasing North American permacutlurists and their properties. This film was hugely inspiring. There were projects and properties ranging from small urban settings up to a 106 acre organic farm in Wisconsin, all of which were tremendously productive and successful. One of my favorite aspects about the film was the attention given to people care, many of the featured projects were community efforts to rehabilitate polluted or unused urban blocks, as well as one project in California that offered ex-convicts a unique opportunity to transform land and themselves. Also it was really amazing to see the enormous yields of healthy food put forth from the execution of permaculture principles and way of life. It is about more than being less bad, we can be a positive creative force for our planet, that is a really empowering idea and one that resonates truth.

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Lastly we attended a tomato planting workshop hosted by Nelson Lebo. In this workshop we learned about selecting tomato plants, how and when to plant them, strategies for obtaining high yields from early to late season, fast economic ways to train your tomatoes, as well as shaping and feeding your plants. Again the turnout was excellent and full of people eager to learn, and one or two with some useful tips of their own.

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All in all the Wanganui Permaculture weekend was a really amazing, positive experience. So much information was shared about an astounding array of subjects, and some furious note taking will ensure that most of it will be retained, or stored when it will be called upon at a later date. Seeing so much energy put forth to promote such a positive way of life that is Permaculture has been so inspiring, I can’t wait for myself and Kelly to get to work on our own project. We have enjoyed our time at the Ecoshool immensely and will miss all of our new friends and hosts, but fear not Wanganui we shall return.

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Patrick Dorris

No Depression in New Zealand…and no cold, damp homes either.

Editor’s note: Here is another weekly column in the Wanganui Chronicle.

John Maslin recently wrote an editorial for the Chronicle titled: ‘Get real’ on heritage protection. Given the number of heritage buildings in our city and the cost of strengthening them, a realistic approach is certainly in order for progress to be made.

After reading Maslin’s piece I was driving to work and heard that the song, “No Depression in New Zealand” was up for the missing Silver Scroll award from 1981. It seemed an appropriate ‘get real’ anthem:

There is no depression in New Zealand

There are no sheep on our farms

There is no depression in New Zealand

We can all keep perfectly calm

Blam Blam Blam did not win the Silver Scroll, but I am happy to honour the song for the rest of this column as it reminds us to be suspicious of spin doctors and their reluctance to recognize facts.

Not long after Maslin’s editorial we were treated to David Scoullar’s insightful piece on managing decline: Accepting decline best way for cities to plan for future. Scoullar points out examples of “cutting-edge” urban policy overseas and that they are “not on the radar of Wanganui District Council.”

WDC policy appeared on the front page of the Chronicle last month: “No Decline here, Duncan.”

And there is no depression in New Zealand.

Another ‘interesting’ narrative that has come under scrutiny lately has to do with the cost of building homes in New Zealand. A recent 3D investigation on TV3 asked the question, “Are we paying too much to build our homes?”

While the popular narrative points the finger at land prices and council fees, the ‘get real’ answer points to exorbitant prices paid for building materials. From the 3D investigation:

Tony Sewall , head of Ngai Tahu, the biggest developer in the South Island, has sent teams around the world to investigate building materials prices.

“We’d be paying around 30 percent more than in Australia, probably 60 percent more than the United States,” he says. “And the United States’ product is better.”

Quotable Value statistics indicate that identical medium-sized homes built in New Zealand and Australia cost Kiwis $20,000 to $32,000 more than Aussies. This is not because Australia has higher regulatory costs. Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 9.16.56 am

Cheaper Option: On and off the shelves just like that. 

The programme revealed exclusive arrangements between building materials manufacturers and certain retailers and builders. One example used was wallboard, and how one dominant brand controls 94% of the domestic market. A rival product briefly made an appearance in shops at a much lower price, but then suddenly disappeared. Meanwhile, all parties deny a “special arrangement.”

And there is no depression in New Zealand.

One final issue on the ‘get real’ front for this week. The Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRHN) recently flooded all three local papers with the same article asking for money from philanthropic organisations to support an insulation programme that has been under-funded by the current government. At the same time, we have a local MP who never hesitates to point out how many homes in the District have been insulated under his watch.

To be clear, here is a government agency asking for private donations because The Government has not provided enough funding for a government programme. Meanwhile, a representative of The Government is taking credit for the grand success of the programme.

And there is no depression in New Zealand.

Additionally, it appears that the WRHN has misidentified insulating floors and ceilings as “Healthy Homes.” A famous case recently linked the death of a toddler to the home where she was living that was insulated. As Labour housing spokesperson Phil Twyford stated, “When you insulate a cold, damp home it is still a cold, damp home.”

But on the other hand, this could all just be hype. After all, there are no cold, damp homes in New Zealand.

Side bar: Want to ‘get real’ about healthy homes in our community? A group has formed to look into the possibility of forming a trust that will address the issue of housing performance while creating jobs for local youth. Please contact me if you are interested.

Weighing Words

The best of Whanganui was on display last weekend. It was the root hairs of the grassroots; the calcium chloride of the salt of the earth; the best of times – the worst of times. Actually, it was just the best of times. But most importantly, it was real people doing real things.

Whanganui Permaculture Weekend is the premier sustainability event in our region. The third edition held last weekend provided fabulous learning experiences for over 300 people at no cost aside from a gold coin donation to cover venue hire for the shared meal and amazing film: Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective. The film was standing room only and many other events attracted 40-plus participants, some of whom traveled from Wellington, Taranaki, Raetehi, the Manawatu and Rangitikei.

The minimum estimated value of the weekend programme is $30,000. It is an event of the community and for the community: a real event for real people. We gave it to everyone for free.

As a keen observer of this city by the awa for the past five years, I reckon our community has less of a need for conferences that charge $1,000 per person and claim to be about sustainability (as we saw late last year), and more of a need for events that provide practical, affordable experiences and solutions.

Expensive talkfests have their place (somewhere), but they don’t and won’t meet our particular community’s needs. Real people taking real action is what meets our real needs. A good Maori friend once told me, “It’s too much hui and not enough do-ee.”

I’ve been in the sustainability game for nearly three decades and have never found a more genuine approach than permaculture. It’s great to see permaculture gaining traction in and around the River City, in addition to other grass roots initiatives. For example, I know of three start-up garden projects that are in the works or just underway. Good luck, friends.

Almost everything I know about community gardens and permaculture can be summed up in one word: kaitiakitanga. It is the weightiest term I have run across in any language worldwide.

According to Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, “Kaitiakitanga means guardianship, protection, preservation or sheltering. It is a way of managing the environment, based on the traditional Māori world view” (www.teara.govt.nz).

From my limited perspective, this concept can equally be applied to the TPPA protesters in Whanganui and notably Dr. Chris Cresswell and his recent zen-like car surfing exercise. Chur, bro!

I also think that the success or failure of any garden project relies on having one or more kaitiaki – guardian. In other words, it takes a garden guardian. Sadly, previous community garden projects have failed on this point.

Another weighty word I hold in great regard is ganas – Spanish for desire or inclination. This term played a key role in the 1988 film about a high school maths teacher in a low decile school in East Los Angeles. It is a must see for any teacher or spouse of a teacher.

Ganas and guardianship are the key to success for any gardener, and so it was with great pleasure that I recently visited Sarah O’Neil’s blog: “Sarah the Gardener: Real Gardening in my Real Garden.” Good stuff, Sarah!

Sarah will be sharing her passion for gardening and writing at an event tomorrow as part of the Whanganui Literary Festival. From the brochure:

“Sarah lives on a lifestyle block in the Waikato with her family… Her book, The Good Life: Four Seasons in MY Country Garden, is a funny and inspiring look at the ups and downs of a year in the garden. Join Sarah for High Tea (BYO Gumboots).”

Sounds great, but one question: Do I really have to put on my gumboots again? I’ve been living in the bloomin’ things for months!

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Sidebar: Missed the weekend but want to learn about permaculture? We’re offering books and calendars to Whanganui locals for well below retail prices. Contact us for details.

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