Campbell Dewes is the Chairman of Tarere 2 Station Trust, one of the 14 landblocks who participated in the Ngati Porou Miere pilot over the 2014/2015 manuka honey season.
The trust administers over 2, 500 hectares of whenua located in the Kopuapounamu Valley near Te Araroa, which encompasses pastoral farmland, pine trees and native bush. Eight trustees representing extended whanau groupings govern the station, and last year the governance committee decided to investigate what was involved in moving from passive to active participants in the Miere space. In the following korero Campbell shares what the experience has been like from Tarere 2’s perspective as Ngati Porou landowners in the Miere pilot.
"We have had commercial bee-keepers coming on to Tarere for a few years now, but we slowly realised there was a strong honey economy out there and we needed to become a part of it. To become a member of the manuka honey industry you have to get your hands on the honey. We had the land, we had the trees, but we didn’t have the honey or the expertise in bee-keeping. So we said to the established bee-keepers, ‘We’re not asking for more money, we actually want the honey’. At first they were abit taken aback, until they realised we didn’t want to run them out of town. It’s in our best interests for them to thrive, while we gradually build up our skills and capacity (although in saying that, one of the local bee-keepers has since employed a descendant from Tarere, so we are starting to build up our own expertise)."
"The deal we negotiated with the bee-keeper was that for every four drums of honey they harvest, we take one. We are storing the honey, until the price rises, and by doing so have moved one step along the value chain. We now have much more knowledge about the Manuka honey industry since being involved with the Miere pilot, so we know what we can demand on our own behalf. Instead of being the price taker, we have become a price maker. Because we are becoming more hands on with the honey, we are also taking on more of the responsibility and the risk. However the higher the return, the harder the fall. But that’s all part of the business. Manuka honey could end up to be just like any other boom bust enterprise that our station has been involved with over the last 100 years. However to do nothing, would be to change nothing."
Above: Tarere Station Chairman, Campbell Dewes.
"It’s in our best interests to participate in this Miere collaboration with the other land owners. With your manuka and my manuka, we have a lot of manuka. It’s making sure we have economies of scale, so we have can leverage the better part of the deal for the benefit of all of us. Essentially we should be the major player in the Manuka honey industry, because it’s our manuka. Co-ops are nothing new to Ngati Porou. We had the Ngati Porou Dairy factory, the Waiapu Farmers and in recent times, Ngati Porou Forests. We need to have the same goals and aspirations, otherwise we will be divided and could easily be picked off by the honey companies. But at the same time each land block must retain its own autonomy and independence. And if there’s no financial benefit coming directly back to our shareholders, then it’s a waste of time".
"Some blocks may be quite happy being passive receivers of cheques, but we aren’t. Our role as trustees is to look after the best interests of our beneficiaries. So if we think there is an economic opportunity, we are duty bound to look into it. Tarere is our mana whenua tuku iho, and the kaitiakitanga of that inheritance is upper most in our minds. We have to balance the desire for economic returns with the sustainable management of that whenua. We try to do the best we can, because it’s not ours. Personally I want to leave Tarere in better shape than what it was. 100 years ago, cutting scrub was the number one priority, now we are talking about farming Manuka. It wasn’t so long ago that Manuka was a weed, and now it’s a taonga. Perhaps it was always a taonga but we didn’t know it. At the end of the day the land is still there. “Whatu Ngarongaro te tangata, toitu te whenua. Man lives and dies, but the land lasts for ever." That’ s what upper most in our minds as appointed legal guardians of Tarere Station.”
"We see the Runanganui’s main role in this Collective as an enabler, and what Allan, John and Victor have been doing is very good. They haven’t been telling us what to do, but have been coming to the table in a supportive capacity, which we are very appreciative of. We also mihi to NZ Trade enterprise and Poutama Trust, for feeding our interest in this exciting Miere sector."
To learn more about the Ngati Porou Miere Collective please read the following articles originally published in the July 2015 edition of Nati Link.