A new commercial enterprise was launched recently with the aim of helping Ngati Porou landowners to gain a sweeter slice of the multi-million dollar manuka honey industry.
Ngati Porou Miere Limited Partnership is the name of a new entity made up of a collective of Ngati Porou land trusts and incorporations. Last Friday representatives from the first six groups to join the venture gathered at Awatere marae near Te Araroa to take part in a special signing ceremony, formalising their participation as foundation directors and shareholders.
The kaupapa behind the company is to enable Ngati Porou landowners to have greater influence over the manuka honey produced on their land. Those who join the collective have the option to “take the honey and not the money.” This means that in lieu of receiving a leasing fee from bee-keepers who place hives on their properties, they will instead receive drums of honey. These drums will then be stored by the company and on-sold at market value on behalf of the landowner.
Huti Watson, a trustee of Pohutu Station is one of the six foundation directors of the company. She said the venue for the ceremony added extra significance to the occasion.
“Awatere marae is surrounded by the six contiguous land blocks represented at the signing. We are all whanau here, so it just makes sense that we are working together on this kaupapa. This is the start of a new era, and now we have a new board we are going to start going places. Before we used to slash our manuka, now we are trying to grow it.”
Tarere Station is another of the pioneer land blocks who have joined the collective and is represented on the company’s board by its chairman, Campbell Dewes. Campbell says the formation of the company provides an exciting opportunity for Ngati Porou land owners.
“With this new industry of Manuka honey on our door step, we have the opportunity to become self-determining, commercially and financially. Because we own the land and the manuka, we believe we have more than a vested interest in having a slice of the manuka honey industry that comes off our land.”
He also believes that in time economic benefits will be derived for the wider community.
“We hope there will be flow on effects in terms of employment of more local bee-keepers and that we will have a part to play in adding value to the honey. But initially we have to be the owners of our honey. Once we have skin in the game, we will be able to make better decisions for us.”
Ngati Porou Holding Company, the commercial division of Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou, is another group who formally joined the collective during the signing ceremony. Chairman, Matanuku Mahuika says the company believes Manuku honey is an industry that Ngati Porou can play a more prominent role.
“We see miere as an opportunity for the district and one that Ngati Porou can be right at the heart of. There is no honey industry unless you’ve got the honey – and we have got the land the honey grows on. So in my view we should be leveraging off that more, and using our positions as producers to get better outcomes for ourselves to promote and grow the industry.”
Matanuku believes Ngati Porou Miere is the first formal partnership arrangement to be established which involves Ngati Porou landowners working collaboratively within the Manuka honey sector.
“However as an Iwi we have been doing this for a long time. You just have to think back to the likes of the Waiapu Farming Co-ops during Ngata’s time, that’s a good example of the people within the district coming together to work for the collective good.”
The manuka honey season usually runs for six weeks from late November to January while the manuka flowers are in full bloom. At the conclusion of harvesting Ngati Porou Miere will hold a series of land recruitment hui in March to encourage other Ngati Porou landowners to join the company and become involved in the 2016/2017 season.
Campbell Dewes says the key to the success of the company will come down to increasing the volumes of honey collectively produced.
“The more blocks that join, the greater capacity we have to build our collective. It’s in every-ones best interests that the more of us who join, the greater the strength we will have in working together.”