Erana Clarkson's late grandfather loathed manuka. He used an axe and fire to clear it from the dairy farm he created at Waikara near Aranga, just south of Waipoua Forest, many decades ago.
But in a ceremony at Waikara last week Te Roroa began planting the first of 55,000 manuka seedlings on 55ha of iwi land from which a radiata pine crop had recently been harvested.
Te Roroa is in partnership with major manuka honey producer Manuka Health NZ Ltd, which plans to establish 100 beehives on the 55ha over the next five years.
And as further planting covers more than 500ha in manuka by 2028, the number of hives will increase to 1000, providing the partnership with a golden stream of honey which could earn up to an estimated $1 million annually.
It's a sweet prospect for the 3000-plus members of Te Roroa. Their Treaty settlement, signed in 2005, provided the iwi with $9.5 million and returned 24 sites of significance totalling 2000ha.
Today Te Roroa farms livestock on much of the 3900ha in iwi ownership and the move into manuka honey is viewed as a good alternative use for the land, providing positive environmental and financial returns.
Sustaining Te Roroa
Clarkson — who still lives on her now reverting family farm at Waikara — said although her granddad had hated manuka he was also an entrepreneur who would be delighted with its comeback earning money so the land was sustaining the Te Roroa people.
She is the iwi honey manager, in charge of the business flowing from 300 hives which Manuka Health already has on leased Te Roroa land, including her farm. Honey from these hives is marketed under the 'Waipoua' label in Trade Aid stores.
The Te Roroa manuka planting is part of the Government target to get a billion trees in the ground over the next 10 years. It is linked with plans to increase New Zealand manuka honey exports from about $300m annually at present to $1.2 billion by 2026.
Manuka Health says that for every 1000ha of new manuka plantations planted, it is expected more than 20 tonnes of high-grade manuka honey will be harvested each season on average.
Northland manuka is high in Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in its nectar so it produces high levels of Methylglyoxyl (MGO) which is in strong demand from the nutraceutical and medicinal sector of the honey market.
In May new forestry service Te Uru Rakau partnered with Mānuka Farming New Zealand to plant 1.8 million mānuka trees across New Zealand this year. In Northland, Kauri Park Nurseries at Kaiwaka has provided many of these manuka seedlings, including those going into Te Roroa land, which nursery staff will plant.
Manuka Health apiculture general manager Dave Campbell said some of the firm's 15 staff at Kerikeri would set up and service the Te Roroa hives, sending honey to the company headquarters at Te Awamutu for packing.
He believed Te Roroa would be the first of many iwi to see the benefits of partnering with Manuka Health to produce manuka honey and he urged those interested to call him on 07 870 6555.
Kauri Park Nurseries business development manager Andrew Wearmouth said his company had supplied Te Uri o Hau with manuka seedlings for a trial plot at Pouto and sent many thousands of seedlings to Parengarenga Inc in the Far North.
Sourcing right genetics
Kauri Park, established in 1994, now has 55 staff. Its core business is providing native plants for roadside planting throughout New Zealand, but with manuka it is involved with genetics, sourcing seedlings from plants with high DHA content. The Te Roroa seedlings' mother plants were from the iwi rohe.
Parengarenga Inc general manger Jon Brough is a former chief executive of Nelson Honey who has had 320,000 manuka seedlings planted in gullies and other areas unsuitable for pastoral farming since he joined the big — 5900ha livestock, 11,000ha forestry — Te Kao-based station two years ago.
Along with valuable manuka honey, he told The Country he was interested in added-value apiculture products such as bee venom used to make skin cream popular with Chinese women who prized its anti-ageing qualities.
Brough said he had also been talking with Te Kao kaumatua and kuia about traditional Māori medicines and was considering the possibility of incorporating them with manuka honey to give added value.■