Ruatāhuna - Our Homeland

We're from Ruatāhuna, known as Te Manawa-o-Te-Ika-a-Māui - the Heart of Māui’s Fish. The name refers to the exploits of Māui, an ancestor from our ancient mythologies, who pulled up a huge fish from the depths of the ocean that became the North Island of New Zealand, as we know it today. Ruatāhuna is also the place where our tribe originated – from the union of mist and mountains in time immemorial.

Ruatāhuna is located in the heart of remote untouched indigenous forests known as Te Urewera which is the homeland of our tribe Tūhoe. Thus, Ruatāhuna is a place of great significance in our world – the cradle of our tribe, the heart of our homeland.


Te Urewera - Our Forest

Our forests of Te Urewera extend over 200,000 hectares in the heart of the North Island forming the highlands and hinterland of the Bay of Plenty and Northern Hawkes Bay. These forests hold a great diversity of flora from the lower reaches of river valleys to the summits of the mountain ranges. Ferns abound throughout the region with shrubbery of many species and then the majestic podocarps tower at the top of the forest canopy.

Delights for the honey bee abound – swathes of magical mānuka on lower slopes and flats; rewarewa standing as sentinels above the scrub on ridges and slopes; tāwari groves deep in the forest on the mountain ranges, tawhero on mountain ridges; māhoe in the damp green gullies – these are the main honey sources. But there’s also ramarama, kaikōmako, kōkōmuka, parapara, houhi, hohoeka, putaputawētā…..

Thus Te Urewera is a wonderland for our honey bees and she gives us exquisite forest tree honeys and a bounty of bee feed throughout the season. This is one of the things that fascinates us and drives us to take our honeys to the world.


Tūhoe - Our Tribe

We are tangata whenua, the people of this land, known by some as the ‘Children of the Mist’, since we are born of the mist and the mountains in mystical beginnings. Ruatāhuna is a precious place of tribal origins and has been a refuge for our tribe in embattled times of the past, so is known as Te Kohanga o Tūhoe (The Cradle or Refuge of the Tūhoe Tribe). Tūhoe is renowned for resisting the colonisation of New Zealand and for holding fast to our indigenous language and cultural traditions. Find more about Tūhoe and our tribal history.


For centuries, our ancestors have lived in the hills and valleys across this region, and have passed down through generations the precious knowledge of living deep within our forests. These are the traditions and the connection to our forests that we bring to our enterprise of Manawa Honey.


Kaitiaki - Our Trust

Manawa Honey NZ was founded by the Tūhoe Tuawhenua Trust which holds 9000 hectares of bush-clad lands about Ruatāhuna. We aim to sustainably manage the land and resources of our region for the benefit of current and future generations. Manawa Honey NZ is part of our programme of developing enterprises that create jobs for our people which brings prosperity for our people in Ruatāhuna. We also run a range of other programmes such as research into our forest ecosystems and traditional knowledge or mātauranga. Read more...

Nanao Miere – Our Tradition


Our interest in honey production flows from our tradition in Ruatāhuna of wild honey-gathering, which we call te nanao miere. Our forests have always been places of bounty, for birds, berries and other foods. Honey became a revered food for our people when the honey bee was introduced to New Zealand in the 1830s. From that time our ancestors gathered wild honey from hives high up in our forest trees, as depicted in this photo to the left. 

One of our trustees, Korotau Tamiana, a well-known forest expert of the Tūhoe tribe, 

explains in the video how this process took place. We continue to be inspired by the

ingenuity of our ancestors as forest honey-gatherers of this land!

Ropes were used to secure the tree-climber and to move tins for the honey up and down the tree.

Miere – Our Business


In 2000, wild bee hives throughout region were destroyed by the varroa mite that reached New Zealand in that year. We were no longer able to continue with wild

forest honey gathering and took up hobby beekeeping instead.  By 2010 we had started to develop a business for honey production.

We turned to honey for business development for some simple reasons:

  • Traditionally, honey was a revered food – a taonga - and we wanted to get honey back into every home in Ruatāhuna

  • Beekeeping keeps us in touch with our forest which is the mauri or life source for our people and our culture

  • The honey business creates meaningful jobs and careers of different types for our people – from beekeeping to brand management.

  • In turn, jobs bring prosperity for our whanau and hapū.

  • Bees are good for our environment – pollinating our farm pastures, our orchards and gardens, and our forest ecosystems.

Browse the newsletters of the Tūhoe Tuawhenua Trust for more on the development of Manawa Honey NZ.


Manawa – Our Brand

Manawa means ‘heart’ and our brand name and logo springs from Te Manawa o te Ika a Maui – our homeland Ruatāhuna, deep in Te Urewera forest. Our strapline ‘Honey from the Heart’ refers not just to our honeys from Te Urewera but also to our approach to our business – we love honey, we produce it with care and it means a lot to us here in Ruatāhuna. That is, we’re proud to present a slice of our heaven through honeys to the world!

Our main brand colours is deep purple, inspired by our first honey presented under Brand Manawa that came from the Māhoe tree.

Māhoe is a very special tree that appears in groves in our forests throughout Te Urewera. Our ancestors used the māhoe for medicinal purposes. The bark was stripped and prepared as a pack on burns; the leaves would be used for bathing areas affected by rheumatism, and for application to wounds and skin diseases. Click here for more about traditional medicinal uses of Māhoe.

Māhoe was also used for making fire by rubbing a slab of soft Māhoe with a pointed stick of harder wood such as kaikomako. The wood is slow burning and smouldering sticks of it were carried in stone container to transport ‘fire’. Click here for more information on the Māhoe for making fire before the advent of lighters and matches.

Mahoe is actually a member of the violet family and the deep purple comes through in the base of the flower in some varieties (see photo above) as well as in its ripe berry. Other berries of our forests also have purple berries but the māhoe berry is a stand-out. It has such an intense purple colour that it was used as the colourant for traditional ta moko (tattoo) seen on the chin of the woman depicted here (photo to the left). In this process, the ashes of the vegetable caterpillar were mixed with the juice of the māhoe fruit and applied to incisions in the skin, in a design that holds much meaning for the person that bears the ta moko.

Last but not least, the māhoe berry is an important source of food for our revered kereru (forest pigeon). The kereru gain body weight through the summer feasting on the māhoe berry in preparation for nesting later in the year.  The kereru holds special significance for us as a forest people. It was traditionally prepared for special occasions, for special guests and for women – symbolising fertility and life itself in linking us as a people to our forests.

So through the māhoe tree, we bring together many strands - our forest ecosystems, our traditional heritage and the wonder of life itself – reflected in the deep purple colour as our inspired choice for our brand colour.


Tikanga - Our Values

We are driven in what we do by a number of core values:


Whenua - Sustainable Land Use

Beekeeping is a sustainable use of our bush-clad mountainous region that can benefit current and future generations without detrimental impact on our ecosystems. People and the land in harmony, forever.


Tangata Whenua – Development for our People of the Land

We are Tuhoe, original people of this land, and our honey production business has been developed to promote enterprise and self-reliance, and to give us jobs and careers for generations to come.


Manaaki - Sustainable Beekeeping

In a beekeeping world where artificial feeding of sugar and pollen substitutes have become a norm for much of the year, we focus more on sustainable beekeeping practices based on natural forest sources of nectar and pollen.


Mauri – Our Forest Quintessence

We are committed to looking after our indigenous ecosystems in Te Urewera, of which honey bees have been a part for nearly 200 hundred years. Our beekeeping operation maintains a pollination service in our forest for many species especially because feral honey beehives were wiped out by the dreaded varroa mite since it reached New Zealand in 2000.


Manawa - Honey from the Heart

We produce our honeys with care as if every drop was for our own table. We manage our production from our forests to the jar so that we can control the quality of our honeys. Thus we are honoured to bring Manawa to honey–lovers across the world.


Tangata - Our Talent

We are committed to involving and developing our own people of Ruatāhuna so that they can flourish in careers in Manawa Honey. We are working for the long-term to build an industry that utilises our own resources and the talents of our people for many generations to come. From the start, we have trained our own people in beekeeping, business support and marketing to fill the jobs that we have created through this business - more than 10 roles by 2018. And, we are committed to continue, where we can, to train and develop more of our people to fill additional jobs we intend to create in coming years.


© Manawa Honey NZ 2018