Initial planting of manuka starts

Members of the Stowell family after a hard day's work clearing boulders and planting manuka, spring 2014.

Work has begun on converting former grazing land at Onuku into a manuka stand yielding high quality oil and honey products.

 

The initial work was undertaken on the Stowell Block with the planting of 8000 plants on approximately 3 hectares, with a total of 18 hectares planned for planting.  Members of the Stowell whanau were involved in converting the stony land on the shores of Lake Rotomahana into plantable areas.

 

The trees planted in August were specifically grown to produce a high level of what is known as the “unique manuka factor” or UMF.  The UMF rating is regarded as an accurate measure of the attributes and values that make up manuka honey.

 

The first lot of trees planted came from a Tauranga based grower and were expected to flower and may produce some honey in late 2014/ early 2015 but production will depend on the availability of beehives for extraction.

 

The second lot of trees planted came from Northland and were not expected to flower until the 2015 season (spring).

 

Onuku Trustees attended a field day at Manuka Bioactives Limited’s manuka plantation in Whakatane. The trustees were enthused by the diverse and sustainable land use model and were very keen to progress with a project on their farm.

 

Crete Wana, the General Manager of Operations for Manuka Bioactives Limited which has been engaged to oversee the four-year project, says the land on which the trees were planted was not very productive for cattle.“We think we can turn that around by five- or six-fold for them, but we will see.”

 

Crete described the area as probably the most extreme site you could get.  In one week after planting, the team had to contend with a flood, two frosts and big winds - but the trees held up well. 

 

“But I think they will grow well because manuka will grow anywhere and everywhere.”

 

The paddocks around the area are littered with boulders of all size from the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.  Some are the size of a small car, needing a bulldozer to shift them, while a mechanical augur has been used to painstakingly help extract others and dig holes in readiness for tree planting.

 

As well as the 4000 plants in the first section, another 4000 has been planted in an adjacent area, bringing the total of 8000 planted in year-one.  With cultivars being planted, the UMF rating of each tree is expected to be medium to high.

 

Crete says an important aspect of the project was the involvement of students from the Waiariki Institute of Technology’s agricultural group who came out and helped the Stowell family members get started on planting.

 

The whanau included sons, grandsons and great grand-children. 

 

“I think it is fantastic and when the family takes ownership of a project like this, it will be successful.”

 

Crete will be overseeing the project over the next three to four years from spring 2014 as planting proceeds over the 18 hectare block in a further three stages.

 

Les Stowell, a member of the Onuku Maori Lands Trust, says the manuka project is a part of the diversification programme.

 

“The idea is once these trees have grown we will not only be taking high-grade manuka honey off them, we are also hoping to get the manuka oil.

 

“The honey and oil we get off these plants will be exported to all parts of the world.  As a trustee, we are excited by the project in terms of long-term sustainability of this particular block of land we are associated with.”

 

The involvement of whanau in the project will be something they could look back on in the future and be proud of their involvement.

 

“I can recall my grandmother saying to me when I was a young that we’ve got this land up here and she wouldn’t benefit from it but her mokopuna will. 

 

We did benefit from it and still are in terms of tertiary grants we’ve had for our children, and that, hopefully, continues with these guys.  They probably don’t realise it right now but in years to come they will come up here with their kids and say we started this.  This is our contribution to our tipuna’s land.”

 

The project has come about as a result of Les Stowell being heavily involved in the Manuka Honey Industry  and identifying the fact that the land will be suitable for this type of project.   

 

The Trust’s relationship with Arataki Honey confirms the fact that there is potential in this business.  Arataki Honey has had beehives on its land for some years.

 

Arataki is now paying the Trust a rental amount for the deployment of hives on Onuku Lands.  With the price of manuka honey skyrocketing, it was decided to look more closely at how to gain better returns directly from the land.

 

For more information on manuka’s unique qualities, go to: http://www.umf.org.nz/what-is-umf-honey

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Work has begun on converting former grazing land at Onuku into a manuka stand yielding high quality oil and honey products. Crete Wana, the General Manager of Operations for Manuka Bioactives Limited which has been engaged to oversee the four-year project, discusses the challenges and the opportunities.

The planting of manuka for valuable oil at the Onuku Maori Lands Trust has seen members of the Stowell whanau moving boulders and planting in tough conditions. Les Stowell, a member of the Onuku Maori Lands Trust, says the manuka project is a part of the diversification programme.

© 2014 by Onuku Maori Land Trust

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