Research into high-performance mānuka plantations is bringing innovation to a block of Māori land west of Lake Taupō.

Hauhungaroa trustees

Hauhungaroa No.7 is a 200-hectare block that’s been used primarily for dairy grazing. But a desire by the owners to protect the whenua has led them to working with Te Tumu Paeroa and the Mānuka Research Partnership to develop a pilot plantation.

Hauhungaroa first mānuka“On Hauhungaroa 7 there’s a 53-hectare gully that’s marginal land.  It isn’t suitable for dairy grazing. The owners were keen to retire that part of the block where there’s erosion potential” says Blair Waipara, Land Development Manager at Te Tumu Paeroa.

“There are also tight nitrogen management regulations in the Lake Taupō catchment. These make increasing herd numbers an uneconomic choice”.

By planting mānuka, nitrogen credits can be reallocated to other parts of the land, increasing its value. Mānuka also qualifies under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The trust can register for carbon credits and there’s the potential from honey.

“But the priorities for owners were environmental. And if they can make money as well – great!”

Te Tumu Paeroa is a member of the Mānuka Research Partnership alongside Arborex Industries, Comvita NZ, DC and CY Tweeddale Partnership, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Nukuhau Carbon and Landcorp. The company has invested in the mānuka plantation programme alongside the Minstry for Primary Industries, with the goal of growing the yield and reliability of supply of medical-grade mānuka honey. The programme sourced seeds from areas that produce high-quality honey.

“We’re keen to see if this is an option for owners to improve the return from their land, while also meeting their environmental goals”.

Working alongside owners

hauhungaroa plantingAfter a request from owners to assess planting options, technical advice was given on its suitability for a mānuka plantation.  The process took into account the aspect of the land, slope, soil type and erosion, the presence of pests and weeds, climate, weather exposure, access, opportunity costs and other land uses in the area. Te Tumu Paeroa worked through the Poutama process with the owners and trustees. This involved a series of meetings to find what’s important to them, and how to incorporate these into the project.

“The plantation will help support their environmental goals by improving erosion control and reducing nitrogen leaching as well as bringing in a financial return. The tenant’s also happy. They no longer need to worry about that piece of uneconomic land. So it’s a win, win!” says Blair.

Like any research and development venture, there are risks. But if successful, it could mean owners of marginal land have potential development options.

Kaitiakitanga

Hauhungaroa trustees group“Now that the planting’s done, the next few years are really important, with maintenance and pest control” says Blair.

Partial honey harvest is expected to start in 2020 and the trees will reach full floral maturity around 2023.

“Mānuka plantations are a reasonably new thing so it’s still early days. But we’re really pleased with where we’re at. We’re looking forward to helping the owners produce high-quality mānuka honey, and protecting their whenua for future generations”.