When Suzan Craig purchased over 300 hectares at Pataua North to develop and provide a natural environment for family holidays, she couldn't have imagined that, only several years later, that land would produce award-winning honey sold at the prestigious Harrods in London.
Following the land purchase, Suzan's dad, environmentalist Dr John Craig and his wife, moved on-site to guide and help a team, including local Maori, develop it into the award-winning tourist attraction it is today.
Tahi was named after the Ohuatahi Mountain flanking the property and, over the last 13 years, a dedicated team have worked the run-down cattle farm, with the mission of restoring it to its former glory while preserving both its ecological and cultural heritage.
Back in the day, the rich, fertile landscape of Tahi was alive with a vibrant indigenous culture and home to generations of Maori.
When European settlers arrived, they transformed the landscape, clearing the native forests for building material and fuel, introducing intensive farming and a host of pest species, including stoats and possums, that decimated the native wildlife. Wetlands were drained, the birds disappeared and the land lost its mauri (soul).
Now, 14 wetlands have been restored, ranging in size from small ponds to lakes spanning five hectares, over 300,000 indigenous trees planted, and, after ongoing pest control, almost 70 bird species are in residence, including kiwi, and numerous native fish species are returning.
Up to 20,000 manuka trees are planted each year, many of which produce nectar for birds and bees. The latter go on to produce 100 per cent natural manuka honey sold in 20 different countries.
Tahi spokesperson Lesley Vincent explains how Tahi honey came to be sold at Harrods:
"My late husband and I went to London in 2013 on behalf of Tahi where we had a stand at a food show. We were busy talking to all sorts of people and, on the last day, in the last half hour of the show, two ladies turned up and were chatting to us and, next minute, out came these Harrods business cards. They are now a strong supporter of Tahi."
Tahi bee keepers have a mutual respect with their bees – pollen traps, which can damage their delicate wings, are not used, nor do they collect bee venom, which can harm or kill the bees. And, rather than stripping the hives of honey, bees are left with one box of honey per hive to keep them fed over the winter. As a result of this good care, Tahi bee-keepers rarely wear gloves when working with them.
This knowledge is passed down to future generations through Tahi's Bee Friends in Schools programme. This involves providing bee hives and suits to several local schools, with a bee-keeper working with the children, before the honey is harvested by Tahi and given back to the schools and sold as a school fundraiser.
Guided by their 'Four C's' philosophy - conservation, community, culture and commerce - in addition to the honey, Tahi offers a seasonal café and a small eco-tourism retreat, featuring luxury accommodation, in the form of cottages and bungalows, as sustainable income streams, which funds the project.
Guests can reconnect with nature by partaking in guided historical walks, bird watching, private tours of the honey-processing shed and even don a bee-keeping suit to watch nature's workers in action. There are also mountain bikes available and horse riding for trekking along the beach or trails.
Throughout the year, Tahi is a hive of activity hosting schools, open days and walking groups. The next open day is Saturday March 24 with the aim of spreading awareness about the property and sustainable business.
Says Lesley: "A lot of people who live in or around Whangarei haven't heard of Tahi or been here. It's a one-way road so many people haven't ventured out this way. Those who do, love the tranquillity and back-to-nature aspect that Tahi provides."