We talked to Te Hōnonga a Iwi Restoring Rosedale Park’s regenerative expert Matt Cummings to find out what he does when he’s not working hard at our site and why he got involved with our project.
A passion for permaculture has driven Matt Cummings and Svea Berling to transform their landscaping design business and embrace regenerative methods that are better for the environment.
The pair launched Untangled Landscapes in 2018, originally using conventional techniques. Matt, however, had a growing interest in regenerative landscaping, creating gardens that would be self-sustaining, which lead him to explore the design philosophy of permaculture.
Permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems.
It’s a philosophy that encourages followers to look at what nature does and how it can be recreated by developing systems that do more with fewer manual inputs, says Matt, who is the regenerative expert on the Te Hōnonga a Iwi Restoring Rosedale Park project.
“It’s working with nature, not adding chemicals such as fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. Over time, chemicals will destroy soil.”
He studied for a Permaculture Design Certificate in Australia under permaculture guru Geoff Lawton and along with Svea, who is also passionate about reducing the chemical load on our environment and the people living within it, has incorporated the philosophies into the work they do for their clients.
The landscaping business was a career change for both Matt and Svea.
Svea is a former English teacher who stepped away from the role when she had children. While her family was young, she started a business with a friend, offering gardening services to people who were too busy to look after their own properties or didn’t have the knowledge or physical capacity to do the work themselves.
It was part-time, flexible work that fitted with family life but when Svea separated from her husband, she needed to ramp up the business to support herself.
Matt had a taste of landscaping work as a teenager when he helped a friend’s family convert their rural property in Coatesville into a wedding venue.
He enjoyed working outside and had holiday jobs on farms. “I learned to drive tractors and loaders and milk cows and birth calves.”
But when he left school, Matt chose to study web design. After starting out in that industry, a chance for some career coaching lead to a role in an HR company, working as an instructional designer, creating learning and development content.
When he met Svea, he was designing and facilitating HR training but was ready to apply his grasp of the learning process in a new direction.
Pioneering regenerative landscaping for urban sites, the Untangled team creates gardens that look more vibrant and healthy, and have less disease and fewer weeds.
The practice of sustainability is all about building soil, and you can speed up the natural process by injecting microbes that support a more complex soil environment.
Matt and Svea make compost for client sites in their Redvale yard, using three different methods. The key to diversity in compost is in the way it’s made rather than the material used to feed it, Matt says.
Applied properly, compost works to restore soil to support plant life and kick start the regenerative process.
“The plants look healthier, flower properly and the garden is less work to maintain,” says Svea.
Matt and Svea see the Te Hōnonga a Iwi Restoring Rosedale Park project as a great opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of regenerative sustainable practices.
“If we are going to get people to stop using agrichemicals and address the pollution and climate change they cause, we need a viable alternative,” says Matt.
“The Rosedale project is a chance to educate people about what those alternative methods are and show the community they work.”
The pair is also relishing the chance to work alongside Auckland Council on this project.
“The council manages more land than any entity in Auckland and if we can sway them to trial regenerative methods, it could have a massive impact.”