Move over Manuka - Kanuka honey is poised for greatness thanks to funding boost

Published: Aug 18, 2020

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  • Top of the South/Te Tau Ihu

Kanuka honey, tea and oil from Marlborough could be the next big thing thanks to financial backing from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

In a grassy setting, bee keepers are harvesting honey. One is in a wheelchair.

Harvesting kanuka honey from iwi lands. Photo credit: Melissa Banks Photography

The PGF is providing a $700,000 grant to the Kaikaiāwaro Charitable Trust Board for a kanuka processing facility. The Trust is Ngāti Kuia’s charitable arm and the new facility will be built on Ngāti Kuia land in Marlborough.

The PGF grant will cover half the project’s costs.

The new facility will create a central hub for Ngāti Kuia’s kanuka business, helping it process larger volumes of more uniform, higher quality products. 

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kuia Board Chairperson, Waihaere Mason, is elated with the news.

"This funding will help us develop the kanuka facility as part of the broader Iwi Economy Strategy to support whānau businesses," he says.

"We as Ngāti Kuia are proud of our whakapapa and our people’s talents and hunger for innovation.

"As a result of this project, we are utilising what was previously seen as unproductive, remote Māori land, creating several new cottage industries producing high value finished products," Waihaere Mason says.

Kanuka produces tea, along with fragrant oil and honey - kanuka honey fans say it has a silky, sweet, floral taste.

Kanuka is a New Zealand native, and along with manuka, are collectively known as tea tree but are actually members of the myrtle family.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kuia General Manager, Dave Johnston, says the Iwi has a more romantic view of the two species.

"We see kanuka as the female variety because it has softer and sweet characteristics, while Manuka is the male and is rough, prickly and bitter to taste." Mr Johnston says.

Ngāti Kuia is already developing products from existing kanuka groves on its land. While current production allows the products to be sold domestically, Ngāti Kuia is scaling up output of several products including kanuka tea.

This increased production has seen the iwi’s first international sales and the growing overseas demand includes new orders from Asia.

Dave Johnston says the new processing plant realises a dream for the Iwi.

"The new facility will be at Titiraukawa in the Rai Valley – this will reduce costs for whānau who presently transport the raw product from their whānau whenua in Marlborough to Mapua for processing," Dave Johnston says.

"The new facility will create jobs and support whānau businesses, while being environmentally friendly with a zero waste focus."