Manuka’s transition from firewood to a honey supply is providing a valuable commodity for Māori land block owners.
Until the last decade, Māori struggled to utilise their lands, particularly those that were landlocked.
“We suddenly realised that chopping down our manuka for firewood was not the way to go. There’s real value in manuka. It’s a great resource for antibacterial honey and that realisation put worth on the land.
“The food industry is realising there are many material health benefits in certain products, and honey is one of them. And there’s no bad honey. But manuka honey has such special healing properties – it’s good for everyone – from human beings, to curing wounds on horses and cattle.”
Ngāti Tūwharetoa concentrated on manuka because the iwi had a large source in its forests.
“Our manuka’s in remote locations but we were able to utilise a helicopter company we were working with on other businesses. We could fly our hives in at an economic rate and make money doing it. As time goes on, there will be opportunity to work with other native species that I firmly believe also have antibacterial qualities and health benefits. Working out how honey can be a health benefit for diabetics is certainly something we should be looking at in our future vison.”
“We should also be keeping our beehives in their natural state of timber rather than importing or making plastic beehives. We’ve got a lot of wood off-cuts that we should be using from our timber industry.”
“We should set up a structure for all aspects of the honey business, be that advising on concepts and contracts, planting, beekeeping, partnerships – the lot. FOMA will benefit its members in the honey industry if we work diligently from our Wellington office and reactivate our role as lobbyists and planners for Māori.
“One of the biggest challenges we have at the moment is for manuka to be recognised as Māori. I was in a duty-free store in Brisbane and was overwhelmed by the blatant Australian mythology that they have real Australian manuka – the nearest they’ve got is tea tree. What it does is diminish the value of the word ‘manuka’ and affect our unique status as the sole supplier of this grade. Hopefully we can do something so the world recognises that manuka is Māori, and is a quality product from Māori land, New Zealand. It’s pretty important.”