A group of Far North women are preparing to harvest their first crop of hemp later this month.
And they were quick to quash any suspicions they were about to become drug runners.
Tui Quaqua Te Paa and Aorangi Logan, of the Koe Koeaa collective which planted the crop in December, were at pains to emphasise that the hemp plant contained negligible levels of THC (0.35 per cent) so was of absolutely no use to anyone wanting to ingest it to get high.
"It's about educating people, getting away from that perception of dope," Mrs Te Paa said, adding that hemp seeds provided a cheap alternative food source that was healthy, natural and full of nutritional value.
"The seeds are full of omega and vitamins. You can have them raw or as oil on your salad, for example," she said.
The two women estimated that the 1ha plantation "way up north" - they didn't want its exact location revealed - would yield around 600kg of seeds, not quite enough to attract commercial buyers, who generally sought a tonne or more.
But the harvest would also provide an opportunity to see if the plant had other potential uses, including medicinal balms, clothing, rope and other hemp products.
Mrs Te Paa said "eco-friendly" hemp could be used, for example, to make a biodegradable alternative to plastic.
Still widely regarded as a fledgling industry in New Zealand, more and more people were considering growing hemp, she added, but it remained very highly regulated, closely monitored by the Ministry of Health and the police, as well as Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) and the New Zealand Hemp Industry Association.
Mrs Logan said all the women in Koe Koeaa whakapapa back to Te Rarawa, and the runanga had been hugely supportive of the initiative.
"We won't make much money out of this [first crop]. Our main goal was to grow it, and grow it well," she said, the initial crop being a "feasibility study".
"It will create employment, and we also want to make money," she said, adding she hoped to inspire others to try their hand at growing the crop.
Mrs Te Paa was confident that Koe Koeaa was on the right track, but admitted that there had been some soul-searching along the way.
"If this fails, we have given it our best shot. The proof will be in the product, and I think we have got a good product."
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