Report on Permablitz # 23 – Turangi town house

Upwards of 25 people came to Turangi last sunday on what was a hot dry, and windy spring day. The site they came to work on was the front lawn of a typical hydro-house. This was one of many houses in the town moved on site for the Tongariro Power scheme in the 1960’s-70’s.

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The concept design for the site included the front lawn as a perennial food forest system – a great sustainable solution for a busy professional couple with little spare time. However, Turangi is renowned for poor and extremely free draining pumice soil and a cold climate. It snow occasionally in winter as the town is 340m above sea level.  However this north facing sloped front lawn is a ideal suntrap, the house gives it excellent shelter from the cold southerly winds.

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To alleviate water loss in the highly free draining soil, teams helped establish a combined Hugelkultur swale system. Stormwater from roof runoff was tapped into and piped to swales dug on contour above new berms. The berms were made from turf dug out of the swales and from trenches dug for wood which was buried under them. This waste wood was sourced locally from the fisherman’s track by the Tongariro river. There wayward gardeners had dumped pruning’s so these were put to good use.

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As the buried wood eventually rots, it will act like a sponge to absorb winter rains to sustain the fruit trees and food forest plants through the summer drought. Much of the food forest is planted with deciduous fruit to ensure the hosue isn’t shaded and particular care was taken in the design to ensure morning sun would still enter the main living space window.

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All involved had a great day with many young people new to permablitz having attended the day. The was a large international contingent of volunteers from Awhi farm and also staff from the Hillary Outdoor education center. It is hoped this event and local interest in the site will lead to further development of edible gardens at a Turangi Marae.

We are hoping to hold a massive multi-day permablitz someday to give back to the Turangi community, many of whom are the descendants of the visionary people that gifted NZ it’s first National Park. (Tongariro NP) Watch this space!

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