Our Mission

Our mission is to provide and promote experiential learning opportunities that nurture people, planet and spirit. Our vision is for resilient and connected communities.

Our name ‘Toru’ (three) connects us to:

  • the three permaculture principles of people care, earth care, fair share
  • the threefold teaching style of engaging hands, heart and head

For Toru ‘education’ is…

  1. An individual lifelong learning journey that is supported by an intergenerational community or network that fosters a sense of connectedness.
  2. A community of practice where one learns useful skills that empower and lead to meaningful work and contribution.
  3. A place of support, creativity, and inspiration for life’s core questions, providing a scaffolding for anyone in a phase of transition who might be living with the question of ‘what’s next?’ and more importantly ‘what matters to me?’ and ‘what’s my task?’

As an organisation, Toru Education is a charitable trust with a geographical focus on Kāpiti, Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa.

Our Trustees

Hella Coenen

Hella, one of our trustees, in her permaculture garden at home

Having been part of Toru since 2018, and experienced the latest developments has brought a lot of joy and hope for what we are trying to achieve for our regions.

I am enjoying contributing to Toru Education, to co-create with others and share skills and knowledge that enhance self-reliance and resilience. I feel passionate about keeping the traditional, practical hands-on skills alive and pass them on to the next generation.

My background is in education and my partner Joep and I moved to rural Wairarapa 15 years ago. I opened New Forest school on our land, where Nature has been given back her voice and the celebration of the regeneration is tangible. A place that includes a beautiful loop walk and an outdoor classroom area which is open to groups who wish for nature connection experiences.  

It was 50 years ago that Joep and I met in the Netherlands at a biodynamic horticulture and agriculture college. I left the world of farming and gardening for many years, working as a Rudolf Steiner kindergarten teacher and raising our two children. Coming back full circle to the land to grow our own food and enjoy the processes of preserving, fermenting and baking, is just so rewarding! The land has reached a state of balance and is in harmony with the surroundings.

Doris Zuur

Our trustee Doris in her permaculture garden at home

I have spent 25 years co-founding/managing the Rudolf Steiner primary school in Raumati, Kapiti Coast (Te Rā School). Since 2013 I have been freelancing from home. Catering (“Home Cooking Plus”) keeps the livelihood wheel turning and leaves plenty of time and space for my passion for adult education in sustainable living, encompassed in Toru Education!

As part of Toru Education I am interested in people supporting each other to design our lives with the permaculture approach like we do in our gardens: To observe ourselves, with honesty, and let our life unfold authentically and courageously, without the pressure from self, others and society; noticing and embracing the miracles and wonders of life.

My husband Bob and I have loved living in Paekakariki since 1997 where we have raised our three daughters. Since leaving our full-time jobs behind, we have enjoyed contributing to our lovely sea side village. When societal , environmental and personal challenges get overwhelming I turn to practical projects on our property and in our local community, such as the community garden and compost making initiative PaeCycle or Pataka Kai (Sharing Pantry). I find satisfaction in bread baking, and cooking for others (PaeKai). I love the magic of a sourdough starter, a microbial culture, that is an infinitely renewable resource that spreads healthy habits. I get much energy from the magic of making soil through the life giving composting process.

Fiona Naismith

Our trustee Fiona at home in her tinyhouse

My background has been in community development and social development and I currently work for Te Araroa Trust in a role focussed on exploring how Te Araroa can support regeneration along the 3,000km trail.

My connection to Toru Education came through attending the 2021 modular Permaculture Design Course (PDC). For me, one of the most impactful parts of the course was all the site visits, where we experienced the permaculture principles in action and the sense of community that came from reconnecting as a group each season. This experience sparked the idea for the Toru Trail, as a way to bring people together and make these experiential learning opportunities more accessible for those who might not have the time or resources to do a full PDC.

My partner Matt and I live in an off grid tiny home, built out of reclaimed materials - a project that was catalyzed by the learning and connections made through the Toru PDC. We feel very grateful to live at Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay. We love living in community and supporting the efforts to rebuild the Marae and care for the regenerating bush that surrounds us.

When I focus on the local, I feel hopeful. There are so many amazing people and groups doing great things to reduce our impact on their earth, regenerate nature and support community resilience. I feel excited for the role Toru can play in connecting people to everything that is going on in our region and fostering community resilience.

Our Story

Since its inception in 2016 Toru has been a legal container for a variety of courses and experiences around permaculture and sustainable living.

As an organisation, we aim to be truly sustainable, evolving in an organic manner. “No synthetic fertilizer - only compost!”

The founding intention is described here in a wonderful article by Doris Zuur.

Toru Education is a registered not-for-profit Charitable Trust with tax-exempt status (Registration number CC53773). 

Toru Education Trust

Founding Trustees Gary Williams, Doris Zuur and Lucy Carver

Founding Trustees Gary Williams, Doris Zuur and Lucy Carver (left to right) signing the Toru Deed on the 29th September 2016.

Former Trustees Gary Williams (2018-2020), Keith Townsend (2018-2022) and current trustees Hella Coenen, Doris Zuur & Emma Matthews.

Former Trustees Gary Williams (2018-2020), Keith Townsend (2018-2022) and current trustees Hella Coenen, Doris Zuur, Emma Matthews on December 2018.