Vicki Murray is a mokopuna tuarua (descendant) of Ngamihi Materangatira Waaka-Paoraone, and one of the five trustees to the land on which our Mānuka is grown.
- How long have you been involved in growing Mānuka on your land?
The trees were planted around June 2021, our first harvest was in September and October 2022.
- In what ways are you collaborating to grow Mānuka and what has the positive impact been for you and your Iwi (people)?
We knew other growers would need to have a model to follow, they would feel more secure in investing in a product if it was seen to be working by someone else, someone they knew and could talk to. We decided to focus at the local level first, to increase the amount of canopied tree volume by bringing the smaller land trusts into the growing activities before approaching the iwi. The impact is that the various trusts are collaborating more, even if it's having discussions around various opportunities to develop their lands. However, we are still at the foundational stages where folk are quietly optimistic but still waiting cautiously to see what happens with the adoption of Mānuka more broadly.
- What does the land mean to you, are you able to explain a little on the heritage of the land?
Because of the land wars and confiscations, we only have small parcels of land remaining, and the responsibility trustees have to the many beneficiaries of the land is huge. Our options have been limited due to the lack of finances and the restrictions open to us to develop the land under multiple title ownership, so we are grateful to be able to have finally found an investment that meets our needs.
Several improvements have occurred as a result of us entering into a partnership with NZ Manuka Group; the first is that the rental received for the lease of the land used has increased.
The second and equally important to us is that the manuka trees are native and as such would have been a resource in our (Maori) traditional practices. The revitalization of such practices as modes of healing is central to our cultural, social, and health strategies.
- Can you explain the land trust and what the land was used for prior to working with NZ Manuka?
A comprehensive study on the historical use of the block is yet to be taken but we know our ancestors planted various food crops in the lands around the marae. The land is succeeded by descendants of the original owners. The trustees of this particular parcel of land are the fourth generation descendants of our great grandmother. Most recently over the last twenty years or so, the previous trustees of the block leased the land to a local maize grower. The only return to the trust was a lease for the use of the land.
- What are some of the traditional therapeutic applications of Mānuka that you are aware of?
Once again, we have lost much of our traditional knowledge in this area. We do know our ancestors applied all types of rongoa (medicinal remedies) harvested from trees and plants such as poultices and salves, as herbs and flavoring in drinks and cooking. Now that we have a manuka plantation we look forward to researching and resuming those ancient practices again.
Our great grandmother was a healer during the influenza epidemic in the 1900s, it is her attitude to providing care to the people in her community that has inspired us (well, me in particular) to agree to the planting of manuka for oil on our land.
- What sustainability practices have you put in place on your land?
We are still in the planning stages regarding sustainability hampered by the lack of finances, but our primary focus is on sourcing access to water and planting companion trees and shrubs surrounding the manuka trees to protect and improve their growth and production of oil.
Down Under Enterprises distributes pure New Zealand Mānuka Oil in North America and around the world. From our Australian and US (Ohio-based) warehouses, we supply 100% pure and natural Mānuka Oil from Mānuka plantations based on Māori lands where the local communities receive training, employment, and a fair financial return for their contribution.