Permaculture Design Course (not available in 2021)

What is permaculture?

Permaculture is a holistic approach to designing sustainable and resilient ecological systems that are in keeping with the core ethics of caring for the earth, caring for people, and social justice.


About RECAP's permaculture design certificate course (PDC)

RECAP offers a standard modular permaculture design certificate course (PDC), led by instructors accredited by PiNZ (Permaculture in New Zealand). The course involves twelve one-day modules plus a final design project and graduation.These modules address a wide range of topics including food growing, ecosystem restoration, water harvesting, soil care, natural home construction, renewable energy, community building, and much, much more.

Students may register for the entire course, or they may register for a half year (for example, taking the introductory two courses plus half or the remaining modules in one year, then finishing up in the following). At times it may be possible to register for a module on a one-off basis, especially at the last minute, for example, if an ongoing participant has a clash. 

Either way, the modular approach allows ample time for students to develop a supportive learning community and to try out permaculture in their own homes, gardens, and neighbourhoods while taking part in the course. It has been typical for RECAP students to develop strong friendships, to visit each others' homes and gardens, and to keep supporting each other after graduation. Some of our students have taken up gardening together; others have led community projects; some have taken on permaculture instruction themselves, passing their learning forwards.


Introduction to Permaculture

The first two modules of the permaculture design course also serve as a stand-alone "introduction to permaculture." This mini-course introduces permaculture ethics and principles, the permaculture design process, and landscape and site assessment. 


Our instructors

Our PDC is led by Sharon and Phil Stevens from Slow Farm. They will be joined by additional guest instructors.


Course fees

RECAP takes the unique approach of subsidising student fees (only $40 per module rather than the national norm of $100-$150 per module), because it is important to RECAP to provide community education that is as inclusive and equitable as possible. This discounted fee is possible thanks to the efforts of RECAP volunteers and support from our funders, especially Lotteries Community Grants, Palmerston North City Council, and Eastern and Central Community Trust. RECAP's permaculture design course is open to any adult regardless of previous experience. Due to high demand and our need to ensure we take the most committed students, fees are generally due before the course start unless other arrangements have been agreed.

  • Introduction to permaculture, two-day mini-course: $80.
  • Full twelve-module PDC with graduation day at no charge: $480.
  • Introductory modules plus half of the remaining modules (first year of the two-year course): $280.
  • Half of the modules (second year of the two-year course): $200.

Module dates

Modules and topics: Please note that the order of instruction is determined by seasonality. Full-year PDC students take all modules; Two-day intro students take the first two modules; modules are marked as "1st" and "2nd" for students in their first or second years of the two-year course. First-year students take those modules that emphasise different "zones" (distinct areas in a standard permaculture design); second-year students look in-depth at core building blocks (soil, water, climate, and energy) plus at putting it all together in urban contexts.

Term 1

  • Intro: Permaculture ethics and principles
  • Intro: Landscape and site assessment
  • Soils
  • Shelter and the built environment (Zone 0)
  • Air and climate

Term 2

  • Large-scale ecosystem dynamics, plus grazing, harvest forests, and conservation areas (Zones 4 & 5)
  • Water
  • Invisible structures ("Zone 00")
  • Energy and appropriate technology

Term 3

  • Orchards, tree gardens, and small animal management (Zone 2)
  • Design for urban living
  • Food gardens (Zones 1 and 3)
  • Final project presentations and graduation

Each day includes a mix of small group design activities, presentations, and hands-on learning, in most cases involving an outdoor field trip in the local area. Participants contribute to a shared lunch, and the informal exchange of ideas (and recipes) that takes place over lunch is a favourite for many students.