The first New Zealand Food Forest Hui, held in Auckland last week was a high energy and over-subscribed event (we had sold out and had people in a waiting list). Here are some of the highlights and outcomes. If you missed it, stay in touch, there’s sure to be another!

While we spoke at the Hui, about food forests and forest gardens, we also modelled living like a forest – each playing our part in an intricate eco-system of exchanges.

Our forest layers were represented by age, stature, flexibility, stores of knowledge, experience, wisdom and more.

We celebrated what is, embraced the possibilities of what could be and committed to practical actions to support the vision.

Imagine food forest projects popping up all over the country, on public land, on private land, for community benefit, for individual food security and well-being, and for commercial gain. We were united around this vision of building New Zealand’s food self-reliance through resilient, multi-layered, mostly perennial food systems, all the while remaining grounded and caring for each other.

We did it!

Lots of connections were made, and now we’ve begun communicating through the fungal networks, exchanging information and collaborating on a diverse range of projects.

I sense that at the next gathering we will be celebrating learnings that have taken place and an abundance of new projects across the country. I imagine a bigger gathering, more song, more music – and more time to ‘be’.

Human Centred Design

“Human-centered design can be characterised as a multi-stage problem solving process that not only requires designers to analyse and foresee how users are likely to use a product or service, but also to test the validity of their assumptions with regard to user behaviour in real world tests with actual users.”

We were fortunate to have Sandra Otto and Lucia Die-Gil facilitate this Human-Centred Design (HCD) process with us over the three days of the Hui.

On Friday 10 Council and Parks people joined us for a presentation and dialogue about growing food in public spaces. We dived deeper over a 2-hour session and I thought the roof was going to lift off the building, with the energy in the room!

Then on Saturday, a day set aside for us to co-create the agenda, we used much of what we’d learnt about this design approach, and applied it in focus groups around different aspects of evolving and manifesting the vision of plenty, though forests of food.

Some key HCD tools:


The quality of the presentations throughout the event was outstanding. Here are just a few of the highlights.

Andy Cambeis shared his knowledge and his plant-it-all-at-once approach after establishing ground cover, and his “Manual for creating a Food Forest on Public Land“. The Q&A session could have gone on for much longer.

Jon Foote spoke about water management and his recent focus on the Rescape Resilience Education Centre land in Dunedin, and raised the bar on people’s understanding of different approaches and techniques. What Jon has achieved in a short space of time on his own land was impressive.

Gary Williams (, offered a detailed description of the design process he and a team have gone through, as they tackle a 20 Hectare commercial food forest project in the Wairerapa. The project is moving forward and Gary’s presentation left us all heartened with the possibility for large-scale food forest systems.

Robina McCurdy spoke about the Localising Food Project run by Earthcare Education, and shared some of the abundant and beautifully edited video content she and her team are creating to show what is already happening up and down the country.

Launch of NZQA Qualification - Food Forest Design

Through a collaboration between Food Forest NZ and Otago Polytechnic’s Centre for Sustainable Practice, we were able to launch a new NZQA approved Level 5 Certificate course.

This is for people wanting to learn more about food forest design and implementation, and wanting to develop the skills for effective project management of food forest projects.

This will begin next year and run from February to June in the North Island, and July to Nov in the South. If you enrol, you will design and begin implementing a food forest project as part of the course.

Jon Foote and James Samuel are working to lay down the schedule now. More details coming soon, but if you are interested, be sure to email James to register your interest: – we are looking at running the first course in Feb with a maximum of 10 people.

Staying connected

If you want to stay connected with what’s happening in Aotearoa, in the Food Forest space, there are a few ways to do so:

The Food Forest Aotearoa Facebook page - you don’t have to be signed in to Facebook to see the content, you just won’t be able to comment unless you are.

This website -

Newsletters – periodic mailings of Food Forest news. Be sure to subscribe to the newsletter (see top right of this website), if you want to stay in touch as Food Forest NZ expands and grows.

A Facebook Group was setup in advance of the Hui for people who registered. Here’s a sampling of the conversations that have been going on there since the Hui. If you are not sure whether to join or use Facebook, let me know your questions. I know there are some downsides, but there are ways to manage it and reduce the ‘noise’ which it can generate, so you can take advantage of what it has to offer.

I might even run a webinar on this subject if enough people are interested.


So many thank-you’s

Jo, Bryan, Lisa, Andy and everybody at Awhi Farm, for playing a vital role and with such style and grace. Huge appreciation for being there from the start, and for all the food and the work you did to gather it, prepare it, bless it, and then share it with us. Thank you Fredd for being so willing to help out from the start, and then for filming the event. To Robina for jumping in and drawing from your incredible kete of facilitation processes when needed.

Jo Venables, your willingness to jump in and take care of so many last minute details was invaluable – thank you!

Thank you to the Rawene Centre for the hire of your crockery and cutlery, and Jo and Stephen for getting it and returning it. For Jo’s partner Tom for lending us the sound system for the videos and music.

To the Auckland Council for not only paying for the venue, but for being present in the form of the 10 Council and Parks people who came for two hours on Friday to hear what it was all about, and engage with us in a design-thinking process.

Thank you to Sandra and Lucia for the extensive preparation and then facilitation at the event. Thank you for your attentiveness to everyone’s needs and to keeping the schedule moving. I know it was a rush, but the feedback was clear: everyone took a lot of value from it.

Thank you to everyone who came. You contributed time, energy and money which allowed me to focus on it and be paid for the for several weeks of intense work, holding it for all that it might yield. To see you leave carrying such awesome intentions for yourselves, the country and the world, was fulfilment for me – beyond what I had hoped for.

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