Permablitz: seeding a resilience revolution
John Allan, an Auckland Permaculture Workshop consultant and Landscape Architect spent last weekend getting his hands dirty in an Auckland urban garden for free and for the fun of it, participating in what is known as a ‘permablitz’. Together the permablitz crew shared skills, knowledge, hardwork, tasty food and a slice of happy to redesign an urban property permaculture-style. This isn’t just a backyard makeover it’s a coming together of community that encourages conversation and action around creating accessible, local organic food production, sustainability and alternative ways of being.
How did ‘Permablitz’ come about?
Permablitzes have been happening since 2006 out of Melbourne when Dan Palmer (a kiwi, living in Australia) got together with some friends and a local community group made up of south american immigrants (called Codemo) and organised the very first permaculture-inspired backyard blitz… hence the name! ‘Perma’ (as in Permaculture, a systems design approach created by two Australians; . And ‘blitz’ as in Backyard Blitz (an Australian TV series about family, neighbours and the local community mucking in to help transform a backyard in a weekend). The term blitz is also known as sudden concerted buzzing crazy effort to get something done!
John met the amazing and inspiring Dan Palmer at his place of business – VEG (Very Edible Gardens), a permaculture based design consultancy that does everything from teach courses to design and install gardens. Dan created the Permablitz concept and since then The Melbourne Permablitz crew have hosted over 150 blitzes!
The Melbourne Permablitz website explains that ‘Permablitzes are free events, open to the public, with free workshops, shared food, where you get some exercise and have a wonderful time. To be defined as a permablitz each event must also be preceded by a permaculture design by a designer with a Permaculture Design Certificate. The network runs on reciprocity, and in order to qualify for a permablitz you usually need to come to some first, although there can be exceptions to this’.
Permablitz possibilities in Aotearoa
The permablitz concept has crossed the sea and groups of community inspired change makers keen for permaculture praxis have been doing it all over New Zealand. It’s said that you don’t do permaculture rather you use permaculture (principles, thinking, methodology) in what you do. This is about taking permaculture knowledge out of organised institutions and making it accessible – anyone can get their hands dirty if they’re keen on organic sustainable living and ‘implementing practical and meaningful designs into their environment’.
The point of difference with permablitzes is that they are not exclusive to backyards; they could be implemented on the footpath in your street or your local roundabout. Finn Mackesy from Auckland Permaculture Workshop is buzzed about the future possibilities of “permablitzing schools, community centres, open spaces.
It’s an exciting concept because this is action in motion toward (actually) living sustainably, which is what the Auckland Permaculture Workshop is passionately interested in.
Auckland Permaculture Workshop
APW are actively involved in researching various aspects of the Auckland bioregion, to deepen our understanding of what it means to live sustainably in this bioregion. APW continually develops and responds to new knowledge through creative research methodologies involving professionals from a range of fields and workshop participants. Permablitz is one seriously fun, real and creative response to the question:
‘what does it mean to live sustainably in an urban environment?’
Last year APW decided to formally jump on the Permablitz bandwagon and get the Auckland suburbs humming… So far they have had a number of fun-filled and educational blitzs that have accomplished such things as:
- Building Crazy Paver Paths
- Installing Water tanks
- Building hot compost piles
- Planting various fruit trees and other edibles
- Installing raised garden beds
- Building dry-stone walls
- Pruning fruit trees
John describes the permablitz he helped to coordinate last weekend, “Our most recent APW fueled permablitz was hosted by the Marshall family, in the Three Kings suburb of Auckland. The Marshalls have a permaculture plan to retrofit their home and garden, which already serves as a showcase for more resilient suburban living, and having been in their residence for 4 years, they are only just getting started.
They welcomed us into their home and after Gary gave a short tour of the deciduous orchard, the coppicing woodlot, the future chicken run, the citrus grove, the intensive annual beds and the subtropical zone, we were ready to get to work on harvesting the salad greens that we would need to feed the masses for lunch (Permaculture principle number 3 – Obtain a yield).
Having coordinated a few blitzes now, it still never ceases to amaze me the enthusiasm of a permablitz volunteer, and in a very very short time, everyone was deeply into their tasks, happily chatting away while valuable jobs that would take up to four times as long alone were ticked off the list at the hands of the willing. A positive and vibrant energy filled the air and what some may brand as menial tasks, are performed with smiles and laughter, or even deep philosophical discussions about the state of the world (oh to fill our government with such like minded deep thinkers that can see how bottom up efforts really can make a difference!).
John believes, “most importantly we are building the permaculture community in this bustling city. A chance to get your hands dirty, meet new people, share some laughs, sharing some food some drinks, some knowledge on gardening, philosophy, alternative economics, and really BE the Change we want to see in our world.”
Permablitz is more than creating edible backyards; it’s sowing the seeds for a resilience revolution.