Muriwhenua Mānuka Oil project up and running

Published: Jun 23, 2020

Tagged with:

  • News and announcements
  • Northland/Te Tai Tokerau

The establishment of a mānuka oil harvesting initiative in the Far North is well underway and hiring local people thanks to funding from Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

A hand on an open bag of freshly harvested mānuka leaf

Freshly harvested mānuka leaf at the PGF-funded Muriwhenua Mānuka Oil in the Far North.

The Muriwhenua Mānuka Oil initiative will see Māori landowners in the Far North maximise the economic potential of their unused or under-utilised land through generating income by planting mānuka for oil production or extracting oil from already established wild mānuka trees on their land.

The first lot of planting was done late last year, including the planting of a specific super mānuka tree strain. The project will also work with local landowners to establish the Far North’s first community-owned mānuka oil processing facility which will teach local people oil distillation skills.

The PGF provided the Aupouri Ngāti Kahu Te Rarawa (ANT) Trust with $524,000 towards the project’s set up and initial running costs.

This initiative has the potential to become a catalyst for a new industry that will support Māori development and provide employment opportunities and generate income for local families. The Far North has a particularly high unemployment rate due to a lack of sustainable employment in the region.

While the project is still in its development stage, it has already employed a number of people. Blanche Morrogh, Muriwhenua Trust’s project manager said 10 people were currently employed on the project.

“We have people employed in a variety of roles which includes tree maintenance and harvesting, laboratory testing, business management and logistics, production line, and at the start of the project, mānuka tree planting. The goal is to offer year round employment, she said.

“We have two wahine working in the distillery and are carrying out microbial challenge testing as we work to discover greater value add opportunities. We expect to be able to take on another 10 people once we start producing large quantities of oil and over the longer-term see the landowners we will work with, to grow and harvest mānuka, requiring workers as well,” she said.

A microbial challenge study is used to simulate what would happen to a product during processing, distribution and subsequent preparation and handling should it become contaminated.

Mrs Morrogh said the Trust was keen to produce as high a quality product as it could so was putting effort into researching and development, and this included learning from those producing mānuka oil successfully in other areas.

“We’re looking at how we can use every part of the mānuka tree and its by-products so we’re also investigating how to make mānuka mulch and hand sanitiser from the hydrosol which are by-products from the mānuka oil distillery,” Mrs Morrogh said.

The Trust is in the process of getting the potency of its mānuka oil tested by Plant and Food Research Ltd.

Mrs Morrogh said the Trust had received a lot of interest from businesses about being supplied Mānuka oil and from local landowners wanting to grow mānuka and harvest the wild mānuka already growing on their land.