CASE STUDY – Farm, Noosa Shire, Queensland

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Client’s Brief

  • to produce food for family 
  • as a hobby/interest – demonstrate permaculture principles and techniques 
  • accommodation for visiting family & friends 
  • produce income to pay for initial site development 
  • produce income to pay for helpers (farmworkers/harvesters etc.)
  • possibly employ some full time workers 
  • sell produce at market
  • possible permaculture teaching centre
  • possible on site accommodation for workers, students, teachers
  • possible CSA enterprise
  • possible conference centre
  • possibly a café serving breakfasts morning teas and lunches on weekends or for guided tours

Who will this property be used by?:

  • both a family and a business

Level of food self reliance required

  • 90%

Client’s Priorities

  • provide shed for storage of vehicles and equipment 
  • set up solar panel array, pipes and pumps for irrigation water supply
  • produce food for family- establishing zone 1 
  • establish a system of rotational/mob grazing for small herd of cattle
  • establish swales and food forests 
  • accommodation for visiting family & friends
  • extend, improve and add to existing dam system
  • establish income producing systems as described above: food production, education, tourism

Client’s Importance for Privacy

  • Privacy from the road and neighbours is important but because the existing dwelling is a good distance from both it already has some privacy; enhancement of privacy by planting is required but not a high priority.

Does Client require a specific theme for the site?

  • Clients lean to vegetable dominant diets, therefore a wide range of vegetable sources is important for adequate nutrition. 

Other essential needs the client wants the garden to fulfill

  • Both medicinal herbs or fresh salad greens are required, but not a focus.

Existing structures on site?

  • Yes – a substantial 3 BR dwelling, a garage, a small above ground swimming pool and domestic water tanks.

Existing driveways?

  • There are existing driveways in reasonable condition. The existing driveway will be upgraded and extended but that is not a priority.

Types of Structures needed to be designed

  • Buildings
  • Fences
  • Swales
  • Dams

Client’s available resources

  • Building Skill
  • Reasonable financial resources
  • significant equipment – car, trucks, small tracked earthmover, tools, containers.

Client’s limitations i.e., time available and experience

  • Significant time available but has investments and leisure pursuits meaning the development of the property won’t be a full time pursuit. Help will be required.
  • No experience in gardening, agriculture, animal husbandry. Significant experience in building, earthmoving, good mechanical skills. 

Client’s skills, strengths and permaculture knowledge

  • Significant experience in building, earthmoving, good mechanical skills. Age (60) and health issues will pose some limitations, but more than made up for by skill in the use of mechanical equipment. 
  • Client has recently completed a PDC under Geoff Lawton on site at Zaytuna Farm. Prior to that he had a small amount of exposure to permaculture through a few Permaculture Noosa meetings and discussions with members. He is very enthusiastic and hungry for knowledge. Has also completed a 6 day course with Graeme Sait of Nutri-Tech Solutions. Reads many books and views many youtube videos on permaculture related subjects.

2a SITE DETAILS (some information has been omitted for client privacy reasons)



Latitude and longitude


  • 72m lowest point, 146m highest point

Size of Property

  • 21.02 Ha

Where is nearest mountain range?

What is the distance from the ocean?

  • 30 km from East Coast of Australia (Pacific Ocean)

What is the distance to the nearest population centre?

What is the previous use history?

  • Beef Cattle Hobby Farm and residence

What is the property currently used for?

  • Beef Cattle Hobby Farm and residence


Koppen Climate Classification?

  • Cfa

Plant Hardiness Zone?

  • 5 (Australia)

Average Annual Rainfall

  • 900 – 1200 mm

Highest Recorded Annual Rainfall

  • 2200 mm

Lowest Recorded Annual Rainfall

  • 800 mm

Highest Recorded 24 hr Rainfall occurrence

  • 250 mm

Highest Recorded temperature

  • 43ºC

Lowest Recorded temperature

  • -2ºC

Average Summer temperature (low)

  • 21.9ºC

Average Summer temperature (high)

  • 28.5ºC

Average Winter temperature (low)

  • 11.2ºC

Average Winter temperature (high)

  • 21.2ºC

Is there a potential for extreme weather events?

  • Drought
  • Flood
  • Cyclone
  • Fire

What direction does the rain hit the property? Are there seasonal variations?

  • West (mainly winter) and South East (mainly summer)

Seasonal variations
West (mainly winter) and South East (mainly summer)
What are the slope types?

  • Steepest slope approx. 20.4º/1 in 2.6 (to Southern end of site)
  • Gentlest Slope 5.9º/1 in 9.8 (to Northern end of site)

Are there changes in slope?

  • Yes – Contour Plans indicate the slope characteristics

What are the topographic positions?

  • Mid-slope
  • Hill Crest
  • Valley Floor

What kinds of landscape profiles are there?

  • Erosion
  • Wetland
  • Hills
  • Valley
  • Rock

Where is the highest point (altitude)?

  • Southern Boundary of Site

Where is the lowest point (altitude)?

  • Northern Boundary of Site

Are there slumps? Is there landslide potential?

  • No slumps, no great landslide potential.

What kinds of water flows and water features are on the property?

  • Ponds
  • Streams
  • Marshes

Northern end of site is slightly marshy
Paths or footpaths

  • Driveway

Flora and Fauna

  • Native Forest Regrowth
  • Weeds
  • Grassland
  • Non-native animals
  • Domestic animals

Are there any known pests or diseases on the site? 

  • Some noxious weeds, e.g. scotch thistle

What are the existing plans species? 

  • Open Eucalypt forest, pasture grasses, some marshy reed species

What are the soil types across the site? 

  • Silty clay over weathered rock.

What are the soil pH levels? 

  • around 6 (slightly acidic).

Are there any known soil toxins? 

  • No

How do the soils drain across the site? 

  • Soils drain from South to North, forming a small intermittent stream in the centre.

Are there any damaged soils? 

  • Some erosion to the north, the steepest part of the site.

Have there been any disturbances to the soils, i.e. construction cuts or fills 

  • No

What kinds of building are on the property? 

  • Water tanks
  • House
  • Shed

Are there any other man-made structures? 

  • Power lines
  • Fences
  • Ponds and Dams

What are the current methods used on site to convert energy into electricity? 

  • Solar
  • Mains

Are there any social components in place? 

  • People involved
  • Legal and law

What are the sun angles (midday/midwinter)?

  • 40.09º

What are the sun angles (midday/midsummer)?

  • 86.54º

What are the sunrise/sunset compass angles (midwinter’s day)?

  • 305.2º, 72.4º

What are the sunrise/sunset compass angles (midsummer’s day)?

  • 252.3º, 125.3º

Are there any micro-climates created by elements affecting the sun?

  • Site slopes down from South to North, giving sun exposure to the whole property all year round.
  • Slope gives some protection from Southern winds

What are the winds? 

  • Storm winds
  • Minor wind types
  • Prevailing wind
  • Winds that bring rain

Where are the winds coming from? 

  • 6.87% N, 5.48% NNE, 6.27% NE, 3.51% ENE, 5.23% E, 8.06% ESE, 7.24% SE, 6.19% SSE, 15.85% S, 6.43% SSW, 3.15% SW, 1.92% WSW, 1.69% W, 2.61% WNW, 4.01% NW, 5.21% NNW. The Wind Rose on the Sector Analysis Sheet shows this best. 

What kinds of water flows and/or water bodies are on the property? 

  • Pond
  • Stream

From what direction does the rain hit the property? 

  • Rain come from anywhere, but usually from the SE to SW, with occasional storms from the NE

Are there hot/dry winds that could cause fires? 

  • Yes

Are there any increases in wind speed going up hills? 

  • No

Are there dangerous wildfire fuel regeneration sequences on site? 

  • No

What kinds of access are currently available? 

  • Driveway

Are there any landscape effects? 

  • Small scale erosion in steep gullies to the south. 
  • Small intermittent streams in the centre of the site flowing from south to north. 
  • It is proposed to rectify the erosion gullies with a series of small gabions

Are there any negative inputs? 

  • Low level noise from the Highway to the north.

Are there any aesthetics to take into consideration? 

  • the views in all directions are pleasant, particularly to the north east

Are there any native wildlife corridors on the property? 

  • no

Are there any problems with wildlife? 

  • no


Water can be caught from hard surfaces and we can direct the runoff water with diversion drains to soakages and storages. Waterlogged and saturated soils may also need drains installed. Our aim is to stop, spread and soak water. 
What water harvesting systems are used in the design?

  • Swales, ponds, gabions, roof drainage to tanks, ponds. 
  • Ponds are suitable for aquaculture such as fish, eels, crustaceans and crayfish.
  • Pumps will supply water from the ponds to gardens and livestock watering points.

Types of access used in the design?

  • access driveway from main road: gravel surface
  • turning bay and access to Workshop, Nursery and Cattle yard: gravel surface
  • access driveway to zones 4 and 5: mown grass
  • access within Zones 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5: mown (where necessary) grass
  • Fences to property Boundaries: existing star picket and barbed wire
  • Fences to Zones 1, 2and 3: star picket and barbed wire
  • Fences between Zones 3A and 3B: star picket and barbed wire
  • Fences within Zone 3 for rotational grazing: portable electric fences
  • Gates as required

Placement of structures within the site?

  • 3BR House is existing. It is reasonably well sited. Needs some retrofitting with additional thermal roof insulation. Otherwise suitable for purpose.
  • Existing shed is small but useful for storing gardening tools for Zone 1A and parking one car. Position is not ideal –  could be closer to the house, but it is satisfactory.
  • Poultry House is in in Zone 2 on the fence line for easy access from Zone 1A for egg collection, feeding and care of the birds. Poultry able to be released into fenced Zone 2 garden beds as required for bed preparation, insect destruction and feeding of the poultry.
  • Proposed Large Machinery shed and Workshop is conveniently located close enough to house but not too close for noise and other nuisance to be a problem. It is large enough to accommodate all existing machinery, bulk storage of farm materials and tools for maintenance and repairs to machinery. Roof to support large areas of solar panels for electricity generation. Batteries will store unused energy for use when the sun is not shining.
  • Proposed Nursery is large enough to supply all the farm’s needs plus small scale commercial/retail sales of seedlings and other plants. Positioned close to Zone 3 for ease of access for planting bulk vegetable crops etc. Positioned close to main access drive for easy delivery and export of produce.
  • Cattleyards sited within Zone 3A where cattle graze. Close to main access driveway for ease of transport of cattle. Close enough to Zone 1 and Workshop to be convenient without being a nuisance.

Consider productivity, resources required and frequency of attention
Zone 0

  • Zone 0 is the main house and also the self contained Dormitory/Meal Preparation Area. The existing house has a septic tank system. Whilst septic tanks are not the ideal way of sustainably dealing with waste water, providing non toxic cleaning agents are used, no harm will come of it. When the system no longer functions well, it will be replaced by a composting toilet system and a reed bed system for grey water purification.
  • The Dormitory/Meal Preparation/Dining Areas are yet to be constructed. They will employ composting toilets and reed bed systems.

Zone 1

  • Zone 1 is a garden which supplies most of the day to day food requirements of the family and guests: Herbs and Spices, Leafy greens, espaliered and dwarf fruit trees, vines such as grapes, chokos, pepper, cucumbers. Annual vegetables for the household. 
  • Easy access to the Poultry house, compost heaps, worm farms etc. which require frequent attention. 
  • There are two Zone 1 areas: Zone 1A and Zone 1B. Zone 1A for the property owners to work and use, Zone 1B for visitors such as relatives, permaculture students and farm workers. This affords privacy for the owners and an opportunity for visitors to learn and to develop gardening skills.

Zone 2

  • Zone 2 consists of planting beds for bulk production of starch crops such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, jicama, cassava, pumpkin/squash and the like. Also bulk production of annual vegetable for sale at Farmer’s Markets and to local shops. 
  • A significant orchard incorporating a large variety of fruit trees. 
  • A small duckpond. 
  • Planning of the beds to facilitate controlled access by poultry including chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. 
  • Small pond for ducks and geese. Irrigation water supplied from the semi permanent existing ponds. 
  • The Plant Nursery is located within Zone 2 for ease of access to the main planting beds. 
  • Bulk production of black soldier fly larvae for high protein poultry feed.

Zone 3

  • Zone 3A is largely devoted to rotational grazing of cattle and sheep, followed by mobile poultry houses containing a large number of broiler chickens for the purpose of spreading the cattle and sheep manure, devouring ticks and other animal pests and their larvae. Significant poultry feed supplements will be supplied from Zone 2 and if necessary, external sources. The rotations will be facilitated by portable electric fencing and portable sheltered water troughs fed by existing ponds which will be fenced off to prevent large animals fouling the water. The regularity of the rotations will be determined by conditions such as rain, seasons and the amount of time which can be devoted to management by the farmer and farm workers.
  • Zone 3B is a low lying, semi swampy area suitable for crops such as taro, kang kong, water chestnut, Qld Arrowroot, arrowhead, Watercress, native wild rice, Suitable fruit trees include: Banana, Camu Camu, Guava, Jaboticaba, Miracle Fruit, Mulberry, Rollinia deliciosa, Surinam Cherry, Mango.

Zone 4

  • Zone 4 is sited in the steepest section of the property, adjoining Zone 5. It incorporates 2 swales. Zone 4 will be planted with mainly endemic tree species and may include: 
  • Bunya pines (for food and timber), Spotted gum, Blackbutt, Broad-leaved red ironbark, Grey box, Forest red gum, Grey ironbark, Narrow-leaved red ironbark, White mahogany and Gympie messmate (timber, bee forage),  Wattles, Grevillea Silky Oak, Pink Euodia, Turpentine tree, Brush box (fast growing pioneer support species, timber and bee forage), etc. Smaller trees and shrubs may include: Queensland Hollywood, Ivory Curl Tree, Lilly Pillies etc. (Fruits and Bee forage). Possibly high value species suitable for basket weaving: Lawyer cane and others.

Zone 5

  • Zone 5 includes the steepest part of the site is already inhabited by a large number of medium sized native trees in a dry eucalypt forest.  The ground is fairly hard and dry, with many of the trees in poor condition, affected by parasitic mistletoe vines. 
  • This area will be largely left untouched, though if permitted by Noosa Council, a series of experimental “above ground swales/silt barriers” will be positioned here. The silt barriers will consist of a single strand heavy duty fencing wire supported by widely spaced star pickets. The fencing wire will be draped with heavy duty shadecloth/silt barrier pegged to the ground. The idea being that tree leaves, debris and dust will accumulate along the contours, capturing some rainwater, slowing it down and allowing it to soak into the ground. The theory is that the trees will benefit from the additional water and softening of the ground, as well as the increased quantity of organic matter on the ground encouraging growth of beneficial soil biota. 
  • Small sections of Zone 5 are eroded, forming steep gullies. 
  • It is planned to construct a series of small gabions here to help repair the damage and to slow down the overland flow of water. These improvements will also help to filter and purify water on its way downhill to the next zones, and improve its potential for bee forage and honey production. The increase in soil moisture and the health of the trees will help reduce bushfire danger.


  • As much as possible, the Ethics of Permaculture and the Design Principles of have been adhered to in the design of Federal Farm.
  • The Three Ethics are: care for the earth, care for people, and “setting limits to population and consumption”.
  • In response to “Care of the Earth”, the main emphasis has been to rehabilitate the landscape through water harvesting methods such as of swales, gabions, silt barriers, and vegetation, so that rainwater will be slowed and absorbed. It is expected that the several ponds on site will be naturally replenished over a much more extended period than at present. The quality of the soil will be improved by the soaking from the swales and by the use of rotational grazing, cover crops and green manures. It is expected that the livestock carrying capacity of the site will be considerably enhanced. 
  • The principle of “Care for People” is addressed through the provision of a worthwhile healthy lifestyle, clean water and nutrient dense clean food for not only the property owners, but also for family, friends and visitors to the site. When there is a surplus, it will be either sold locally or shared. It is envisaged that Federal Farm will not only be a working farm, but will host visits and tours for people who wish to learn and see first hand the principles of permaculture in action. Permaculture teachers and like minded professionals will be invited to conduct courses and accommodation will be provided for teachers and students. Farm workers may also live on site from time to time.
  • The principle of “Setting limits to Population and Consumption” is a little more abstract and will depend on the behaviour of the owners and visitors. Certainly however, the practice of permaculture encourages a sense of safety and stability which has been seen to discourage over population. With the emphasis on capturing energy, recycling and zero waste, overconsumption is also discouraged.

The 12 Principles of Permaculture (as described by David Holmgren) and their application are:

  • Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder”By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation. 
    • The Site has been explored and studied; its topography, climate, vegetation, soils and water resources have been taken into account in this permaculture design.
  1. Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines” By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
  • Solar panels will collect energy from the sun and store it in batteries. Swales, gabions, silt traps and improved capacity of the soil created by rotational grazing and enhanced vegetation will capture and store water to to be taken up in dry periods.
  1. Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach” Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
  • There are many different systems which are designed to yield a harvest. Some, such as the trees in Zone 4, will take years to develop. Others like the herbs and vegetables produced in Zones 1 and 2, will yield rewards within a short time and will provide the inhabitants with much of their food requirements. Zone 3 will contain predominately livestock which should result in a harvest after 3 or 4 years and thereafter.
  1. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation” We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
  • As much as possible, a great number of alternative possibilities for the many uses of the site have been studied and considered through attendance of courses, workshops, internet, books and discussions with experienced like minded people. All sites are different and we are aware that surprises and failures will occur and unexpected, valuable lessons will be learnt. Hopefully we will learn those lessons sooner rather than later by constant observation, consideration and thought, in keeping with Bill Mollinson’s  teaching: “The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature: of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action: of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them: and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.”
  1. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course” Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  • As much as possible, resources will be sourced from the site or will be obtained by exchanging resources with others, preferably local. It is proposed to produce not only food, but timber and fabrics from within the site.
  1. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine” By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  • As much as possible, material resources used will be of high quality, carefully maintained and long lasting. Waste produced will be minimised and if produced will be recycled.
  1. Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees” By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  • In this design we have endeavoured to follow this principle by producing a sector analysis and zoning plan. Details of uses within the zones have been considered and suggested but not entirely resolved in all their complexity. 
  1. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work” By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  • By carefully considering the placement and design of zones, an efficient method of working has evolved. Many of the beneficial relationships between the zones have been considered, e.g. the purification of water in Zones 5 and 4 flowing to downstream Zones. Zones 4 & 5 providing a source of pollinators for crops in the other zones, the supply of waste products from Zone 2 as food for livestock in Zone 3. Zone 0 supplying food scraps to produce compost materials and worm castings for Zone 1, etc. etc.
  1. Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
  • Since the owner (who is not in a hurry) with occasional help from others will do most of the initial development work, it will naturally be a relatively slow process with adequate time for frequent consideration and observation, allowing for small incremental changes if necessary.
  1. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  • With a wide range of produce, Federal Farm will be far less vulnerable to threats. Produce will include, Timber, honey, cane, fruit of many kinds, cattle, sheep, poultry, fish, crustaceans, crayfish, “market garden” vegetables.
  1. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path.” The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  • The swales and the boundaries between zones provide long lengths of interfaces which are taken advantage of.
  1. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.” We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.
  • The property owner is aware of this principle and will follow it as closely as possible.