Meet our team

Our interns, volunteers, staff, management team, board and advisers are made up of passionate, talented individuals with a breadth of experience that ranges from multi-national corporations to leading and teaching organisations


The Koanga Institute was co-founded by Kay Baxter and Bob Corker, to support Kay’s life work in saving our Western heritage food plants. Kay and Bob remain actively engaged in teaching, mentoring, presenting talks, research and development, in addition to playing the role of organisation elders.  


Kay Baxter

Kay has been an organic gardener for fifty years and is a co-founder of the Koanga Institute in New Zealand. Kay has a vast knowledge of home gardening, nutrient dense food production and the links between regenerative food growing and human health.

Kay has authored many books including:

Change of Heart (the Ecology of Nourishing Food), The Koanga Garden Guide, Design your Own Orchard, The Koanga Garden Planner 

A range of Koanga booklets, including: Save Your Own Seeds, How To Grow Nutrient Dense Food, Beginner Gardener Booklet, Urban Gardening For Nutritional Resilience, The Art of Composting and Design Your Own Forest Garden

Kay has been teaching permaculture for many years, and draws upon her experience designing, implementing and managing permaculture systems, specializing in the field of nutrient dense food production – vegetable gardens, orchards, forest gardens and animal systems, predominantly in zone 1 and 2.

Kay was awarded a New Years Honor in 2017 for her outstanding work of saving our New Zealand heritage food plants as well as her work in creating sustainable growing systems for our food plants, and she considers her greatest challenge is to find a regenerative way of growing all of her own food without buying any fertiliser from outside Kotare Village

Bob Corker

Bob has been involved with Permaculture design for over 30 years as a self- employed environmental consultant and farmer. During that time his work has involved many individual permaculture designs, including homesteads, small farms and larger pastoral farms. He spent 15 years as a landscape contractor specialising in constructed wetlands, including large municipal sewage treatment ponds, suburban stormwater ponds and channels, and the design and construction of used-water treatment systems for permaculture households. He was also involved in the design and development of the Kohatu Toa Eco-village in Kaiwaka, a small intentional community in Northland NZ, where Kay and Bob lived until 2007. He is a co- founder of the Koanga Institute, and has a particular interest, within the Institute, of developing light earth building techniques and appropriate technologies for autonomous housing and simple living. Bob has co-taught many Permaculture Design courses and shorter Permaculture workshops. He is presently designing and developing Kotare Village, a 50 family rural village/intentional community near Wairoa, Northern Hawkes Bay, and developing a small family farm within the Kotare Village, based on Management Intensive Grazing, Perennial Polycultures and closed loop breeding systems to create the best possible stock for Kotare Village and a regenerative soil ecology.

Peter Alexander

Peter is well known within the organic food sector as the owner of Chantal Foods and Chantal Organic Wholesalers which distributes grocery lines throughout New Zealand. He is dedicated to the principles of organics and sustainability. He firmly believes that we must respect nature and produce healthy products that protect the earth’s resources for the future. He is passionate about organics because they mean health, fairness and care for our land, water, animals and people. Peter is committed to supporting New Zealand, employing over 40 people.

Peter grows fresh vegetables on 5 acres organically and also owns a vegetarian organic café as part of his health food shop in Napier.

Peter has been a member and active supporter of our work for over 15 years. He has a strong commitment to food self-reliance and healthy food within NZ. He is keenly aware of the importance of New Zealand becoming more self reliant in high quality organic and heritage produce, not only because of the increasing difficulty of ensuring supplies in a world of increasing food scarcity and demand, but also of the many positive benefits to our communities.

He believes the work of Koanga Institute will play an important role in our future resilience and support at this stage will return many benefits in the future


Kay Baxter - CEO/Managing Director

Gail Aiken

Gail has been involved with Koanga for many years and lives with her partner, John, in the Hokianga on a beautiful piece of land overlooking the Waima River. They are seed growers, grow plants for the perennial back order system, hold the Northern Fruit Tree Collection on their land and Gail is the Back Order System Manager and also has a new role managing the content of the Koanga website. There is more information about Gail & John’s farm and their philosophy in their grower profile 



Tes Rae

Tes arrived at Koanga in 2012, as part of her desire to learn more about food and health. The work we do here resonated with her, and Tes has spent several years absorbed in our culture and translating it into her life, to regain her health. Tes has a strong interest in all aspects of environmental design, and healthy food, particularly; broths, fermentations, wild and medicinal herbs… and making our food our medicine!!!

Michele Griffiths, Garden Manager

I first came to Koanga to work in exchange for a Permaculture Design Course in 2015 and fell in love with Koanga's kaupapa and seed saving. I returned 6 months later as a garden apprentice, this included the spring internship. After that I became an employee of Koanga taking care of the isolation garden which specialises in medicinal herbs and cottage garden flowers. More responsibilities came to me as time went by, including managing seed harvesting. I have now progressed to Garden Manager, taking care of all the seed gardens. I am extremely grateful for having such an amazing, motivated garden crew and staff to work with at Koanga.  I also love the fabulous array of folks from all over the globe that come here to learn more about regeneratvie living. Best job ever!

Isiah – Gardener

Hello, I am Isiah. I am a Gardener here at Koanga. I have been working here since November 2016 and have been looking after the compost garden.  I now take care of one of the Isolation gardens.  What I enjoy most about working here is the awesome people you meet from here and abroad, the knowledge I have received and knowing that I am doing something worthwhile.

Lulu – Gardener

I am Lulu from Belgium. Travelling the world getting inspired by the actors of change, developing skills and knowledge that will be useful on my journey of honouring the three ethics of Permaculture: earth care, people care and cooperation to thrive on this beautiful planet. Joyfully participating in the expansion of consciousness. I am now privileged to work as a Gardener and Food Forest Apprentice at the Koanga Institute, learning to care and regenerate some of the most previous resources we dispose of; the seeds and plant material received from our ancestors; the soil they evolve in and the amazing people, motivated by this blossoming energy that pushes more and more of us to follow our hearts! I can see a very near future where Koanga, together with the heart driven entities of this Earth, will play as a strong network to overcome the biggest challenges of our time where everyone gets the opportunity to develop their passions and talents for the greatest benefit of all.

Murray Nevermen – Food Forest and Tree Nursery Manager

Born in Napier where I lived most of my life apart for three years in Taupo. The last seven years I have been travelling New Zealand in a motorhome exploring this beautiful country and looking where I wanted to settle. Gardening and Landscaping has always been my biggest passion so, Koanga Institute and Kotare Village is a perfect fit living and working with Knowledgeable people.

Trena Smith – Customer Services

Teena koutou katoa. Ko Moumoukai te maunga. Ko Ngaa Nuhaka te awa, te manawhenua hoki. Ko Rakaipaaka te tangata. My name is Katarena Smith (Trena) and I look after Member and Customer enquiries in our office Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8 am to 4 pm. My day is split between in the morning answering enquiries from our Members and customers, with then in the afternoon dispatching our orders. I find this to be challenging role because as a Charitable Trust we maintain a small staff and the need to step into other roles often is called for. I stay because of the kaupapa of Koanga Institute and receive the most satisfaction from the ever growing family of guardians that seek out the Koanga Institute to help with their journey to look after both their families and our mother earth.

Josh Stubbs

My name is Josh and I work as an apprentice in the gardens at Koanga. Here at Koanga I am gaining the knowledge and skills I need to grow and eat nutrient dense food and live in a more regenerative way. I am glad to be part of such a supportive team of people dedicated to maintaining the survival of so many important heritage food plants.