These unlikely partners are enriching the land and economy of the East Cape, thanks to New Zealand Mānuka Group.

WORDS CHANTELLE LAURENT / PHOTO LARISSA DRYSDALE

The award-winning New Zealand Mānuka Group (NZMG) has been harvesting the abundant, tide-washed seaweed along the coastline of the East Cape for over three generations. It is an industry vital to the region’s economy, and the products developed from the seaweed are responsible for the lushness you see everywhere in the East Cape.

Back to the land

In fact, it isn’t just the East Cape. The seaweed derivatives benefit everything from huge, raw blocks of rural land across the country, to the tiniest flower beds in an urban setting.

Each of the seaweed products is totally natural, and the group see them as a gift back to nature; hence the ‘kō’ at the start of each product name, inspired by the Māori word for gift, koha. Kōbee can be added to bee feed, for optimum bee and hive health all year round. Kōfert is a liquid fertiliser and biostimulant. Kōlush garden mulch makes use of nutrient-rich seaweed, and the dense, fibrous mulch from the group’s mānuka processing activities. Mānuka mulch improves water retention, which means you can use less water but still have a lush, thriving garden.

The group is the biggest producer of pharmaceutical grade agar (a jelly-like substance found in seaweed) in the Southern Hemisphere. In-house scientists have recently identified wide-ranging benefits in the green and brown seaweeds, which are also collected by their harvesters. These seaweeds have been found to contain essential amino acids and trace minerals that significantly boost the health of bees, as well as pastures, crops and our gardens.

With NZMG developing industries using East Cape resources like mānuka (the evergreen shrub, which grows prolifically across the region) and seaweed, Māori landowners and trusts are developing their land into high quality, well-resourced mānuka plantations. Those with already converted land are employing and training local people in wide ranging jobs, from plantation workers and production staff, right up to qualified horticulturalists and managers.

Super plant

As a business whose philosophy is rooted in sustainability, NZMG’s operations are beautiful in their simplicity: they follow the natural cycle of the plants they harvest. Bees pollinate the mānuka shrubs over their 20 to 30 year life cycle. During the short flowering season, honey is collected from the hives and processed for our consumption. Once the flowering season is over, the trees are trimmed, allowing them to thrive, and the brush collected is processed into highly potent MßTK™ mānuka oil. The leftover brush makes excellent garden mulch, which in turn feeds the land the plants grow on. Everything turns full circle.

Back to the people

Behind all this product innovation is a commitment to the people of the East Cape and their land. A fair share of the value NZMG creates goes back to the landowners and beekeeping partners, and so to the local community, through job creation, upskilling, and the redistribution of wealth. Families are able to stay together, on the land of their ancestors, and land is harvested sustainably. Everyone benefits.

Go online to see videos of wild, East Coast landscapes and incredible tales of a region revived by these thriving industries. nzmanukagroup.com

For more info call: WAYNE ROBERTS 021 192 7136