Our Plantations

Mānuka Biologicals plantations are revitalizing traditional (Māori) farming and healing practices.

Best described in an interview with Vicki Rangitautehanga Murray, one of the five responsible trustees to the land and a mokopuna tuarua (descendant) of her great grandmother, Materangatira Paora after whom the whānau trust is named.

  1. How long have you been involved in growing Mānuka on your land?

From the initial concept to the preparation of the land for a mānuka plantation took almost two years.

The trees were planted at the end of spring in 2019. Our operations partners were delighted with the quantity and quality of the yield from the initial harvest which of course was music to our ears. We are in constant dialogue with our partners, the plantation managers and crew to find ways to develop the plantation further to meet our commercial, cultural and environmental strategic outcomes.

When we look at how we started and where we are now, we are amazed.

As summer approaches the trees have recovered from the first harvest. They are in fine condition so we look forward in anticipation to the new year and what the second harvest yields will bring.

  1. In what ways are you collaborating to grow Mānuka and what has the positive impact been for you and your Iwi?

Although we are only a small trust, we are part of a collective of land trusts. We knew other growers in the area would need to have a model to follow. They would feel more secure investing in a product if it was seen to be working by someone else, someone they knew and could talk to. We decided to start at the local level first, to increase the amount of canopied tree volume by bringing the smaller land trusts into growing before approaching the iwi. The impact is that trusts are collaborating more, even if it’s having discussions around various opportunities to develop their lands. We are still at the foundational stages where folk are quietly optimistic but still waiting cautiously to see what happens to us.

Our priorities are building networks and partnerships as well as creating educational and employment opportunities in the mānuka oil industry for our children and their children’s children.

  1. What does the land mean to you, are you able to explain a little on the heritage of the land?

Because of the land wars and confiscations, we only have small parcels of land remaining, the responsibility trustees have to the many beneficiaries of the land is huge. Our options have been limited due to the lack of finances and the restrictions available to us to develop the land under multiple title ownership, so we are grateful to be able to have finally found an investment which meets our needs. Several change for the better have occurred as a result of us entering into a partnership initially with Mānuka Biologicals Group and now with Mānuka Bioscience. The first is the rental received for the lease of the land used has increased. The second and equally important to us is the mānuka trees are natives and as such would have been a resource in our (Māori) traditional practices. The revitalisation of such practices as modes of healing are central to our cultural, social and wellness strategies. One of those strategies is to recollect and revive indigenous and, in many cases, tipuna (ancestral) names for our land blocks.

Calling our plantation; Te horapa o ngā rākau taketake kia ora ai tātou (the cultivation of wellness in our native species) for instance ensures our mission statement leads our actions and has more cultural, genealogical and spiritual significance to us than a lot number or street address imposed upon us by others.

  1. Can you explain the land trust and what the land was used for prior to working with Mānuka Biologicals?

A comprehensive study on the historical use of the block is still underway but we know our ancestors planted various food crops in the lands (like this one) around the hub of the hapū, the marae. The land is succeeded to by descendants fourth-generation of a principal ancestor to us. The trustees of this parcel of land are therefore all close relations, cousins in fact. More recently over the last forty years or so, the previous trustees leased the land to a local maize grower. The only return to the trust was a diminutive earning for the use of the land. No other participation in the seed to sale supply chain were ever considered. Today we are actively looking to partner in all aspects related to the plantation, from the governance, management, operations, sciences and opportunities and aspirations for our children and their offspring.

Building long term relationships is a huge priority for us. Entering into a partnership with Mānuka Biologicals came about because we have shared visions for the plantation, the land and the people.

  1. What are some of the traditional therapeutic applications of Mānuka that you are aware of?

Once again, we have lost much of our traditional knowledge in this area. We do know our ancestors applied all types of rongoa (medicinal remedies) harvested from mānuka such as poultices and salves (to treat dry skin, burns, insect bites and infections), in oral health (mouth wash and to treat inflammation) as herbs and flavouring in drinks and food preservation, preparation and cooking. Now that we have a mānuka plantation we look forward to researching and resuming those ancient practices again. Our great grandmother was a healer during the influenza epidemic in the 1900’s, it is her attitude to providing care to the people in her community that has inspired us (well, me in particular) to agree to the planting of mānuka for oil on our land. Our partners have been generous in offering our landowners samples of a range of their health products. We are relearning the value of these wonderful applications and look forward to the time when we are producing rongoa from mānuka and other rākau māori grown on Te horapa o mānuka (the short version of the block name until we plant other rākau māori) for our communities by the beneficiaries of the land.

Mānuka is an understated taonga (treasure) of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

The whakataukī; ko wai a mānuka? asks who mānuka is.  To us mānuka is the nurturer of the forests. Mānuka is the small, understated shrub our tenacious humble healer, nestled in the background providing sustenance to the land, the waterways, and the people.

  1. What sustainability practices have you put in place on your land?

We are still at the planning stages regarding sustainability hampered by the lack of finances, but our primary focus is on getting access to water from the natural springs and creeks nearby and planting companion trees and shrubs surrounding the mānuka trees to protect and improve their environs.

Mānuka or rākau māori (indigenous species) like the owners, (or are the owners like trees?) proliferate in diverse and often harsh conditions, surviving both drought and flood. Over the hot summer period cracks appear in Papatūānuku (the earth).

When the long heavy rains issued from Ranginui (the heavens) in the low-lying tracts the feet of the mānuka are submerged in lakes of water and still they flourish. Fortunately, mānuka are as hardy as their landowners, able to withstand and thrive under duress.  Favourable weather brings welcome respite to build up resistance before the next severe climatic event.

We are resolute in the move to organic herbicides and implement natural methods of weed control to not only improve our product but to return to practices central to the wellbeing of the land. How we fulfil our roles as kaitiaki or guardians of the land, what we do with and on the land, we believe will be reflected in the resources returned to us by the land. Understanding this may take a little longer to realise, we appreciate this is at least a 20-year investment and as such, is worth taking the time to get things right. Our task is to continue to develop our knowledge and our practices for the (long term) good of the trees, the land, and the people.

Thank you Vicki innocent