Our Story

Ruatahuna Valley Where Manawa Honey NZ Produces Manuka and Forest Tree Honeys of Te Urewera

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

These forests hold a great diversity of flora from the lower reaches of river valleys to the summits of the mountain ranges.

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.

Hankering for the taste of Te Urewera?  Shop here

Haka Group Of Ruatahuna Supported By Manawa Honey NZ

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

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.

A Great Meeting House at Mataatua, Ruatahuna, Te Urewera, New Zealand, Where Manawa Honey NZ is Based

Kaitiaki - Our Trust

We aim to sustainably manage the land and resources of our region for the benefit of current and future generations.

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

Wild Honey Gathering In Forest Of Te Urewera By Ancestors Of The Ruatahuna People That Set Up Manawa Honey NZ

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!

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 whānau 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.

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Manawa – Our Brand

Our strapline ‘Honey from the Heart’ refers not just to our honeys from Te Urewera but also to our approach to our business.
Logo Of Golden Heart For Manawa Honey NZ, Ruatahuna, Te Urewera, New Zealand

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 colour 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.

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. 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.

Try the flavours of the forest

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Tikanga - Our Values

We are driven in what we do by a number of core values:
Earth With Heart Graphic For Manawa Honey NZ 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.

Two People Holding A Heart As Icon For Manawa Honey NZ Values

Tangata Whenua

Development for our People of the Land

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.

Bee in a circle icon for the values of Manawa Honey NZ beekeeping

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.

Icon For The Forest Life Essence By Manawa Honey NZ

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.

Two Hands Holding A Heart - Icon For Manawa Honey NZ Values

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 2020. 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 Chief Beekeeper, Who Comes From Tuhoe from Te Urewera Tuhoe

Taawi Te Kurapa – Chief Beekeeper & Trustee

Taawi is our go-to expert on beekeeping these days and he brings on and trains our new apprentices, even taking kids at the local school for introductory lessons. Taawi is one of the trustees for the Tuawhenua Trust (founder of Manawa Honey). So, in this role, when he’s not busy beekeeping, he’s teaching our young people again in our development programme Te Whare o Rehua – in handling and training some of our wild horses!

Taawi is a dedicated leader for Manawa Honey and is a role model for our staff and all our young people. Taawi is passionate about his work, so passionate he often refuses to go on holiday! To get him to take a break we have to organise a holiday for him – getaway of choice is tahr hunting in the Southern Alps. Not just a beekeeper, but an expert hunter too.

Favourite Honey: The CEO – nah – joke! It’s Mānuka…

beekeeper toby staff member manawa honey nz

Toby Moon – Beekeeper

Toby’s born and bred here, and lives at Tatahoata, one of our many marae here in Ruatahuna. He’s been a staunch beekeeper with us for several years – learning from scratch, but now he sure knows his game.

Toby can lift honey supers with little effort all day long. The rest of us get exhausted long beforehand and we’re left wondering just how does he manage to do that. He’s got real skill too after all those years, so he’s in tune with the bees.

Toby’s an avid hunter, so we have to get our priorities right when the red stags here in our forests start to roar. We love Manawa Honey, but well, the roar is something else!

Here in this photo, Toby is showing our tour visitors all about bees and hives as a new part of his job. Love the expression in this one!

Favourite Honey: Mānuka – to pump those muscles and keep him in the best of health.

Manawa Honey NZ Beekeeper With Stack Of Beehives Behind On A Truck In Front of Stack of Beehives

Craig Pearson – Beekeeper

Craig lives atop a mountain at Ngaputahi, near Ruatahuna, home of Ngati Tawhaki, where, with partner Mel, they built their own home, way off-grid. He’s been developing as a beekeeper for a few years now and is fascinated by bees and how to make them bring in that honey.

He has done many other things in his life of work, and he can easily turn his hand to extraction in the shed, and we know he’s handy with a hammer too. Craig loves getting out there with the bee-boys, and learning more about the forest in which he lives. He gets plenty of advice on hunting and well – all the things that bee-boys talk about when they’re on the job!

Favourite Honey: Has to be Tāwari – the honey of mountains where he lives.

staff member tamahou te pou manawa honey nz

Tamahou Te Pou – Beekeeper

Hailing from Tamakaimona hapu, Tamahou is also born and  bred in Ruatāhuna. Tamahou has been with us for a few years now and is becoming one of our established beekeepers.

Tamahou keeps the beekeeping team entertained with some incredibly funny stories about his hunting or well, other topics of interest to beekeepers! You’d just have to say he’s a real character.

Tamahou’s a real asset when it comes to looking after visitors to Manawa Honey. He’ll take them through the hives on an apiary tour, and holds their interest by explaining the keeping of bees in some detail.

Tamahou is a keen hunter like others in the beekeeping team and enjoys taking his children to the bush, teaching them all he knows. It’s a joy to see him passing on knowledge from the elders in his family down to his children.

Favourite Honey: It’s Rewarewa – ‘cos Tamahou knows what’s the very best in taste when it comes to honey!

Manawa Honey NZ Production Manager Jim Tahi Against The Mountains of Te Urewera, New Zealand

Jim Tahi – Production Manager

Local to the bone, of Te Urewera hapu, Jim handles our honey extraction, logistics, inventory and food safety compliance. Jim has been with us for a few years now, starting out just helping us with IT in the office. So, he’s come a long way from those days!

Jim does come back in the office to fix IT issues from time to time, but he stepping up now for him to become the next honey-meister – a master in the art of producing honey. Actually, that’s Jim – he’s had many different jobs and with his resourcefulness, he can turn his hand to most things.

Now that’s when we can get him away from his drone and other techno-toys, which is one of his favourite past-times.

Jim’s the chair for Mataatua marae where we are based, so there’s times when we have let him go do his duty in this calling. We’re hoping all this learning in Manawa Honey will rub off in what he gets to do for his hapu (clan) of Te Urewera.

Favourite Honey: Pua-ā-Tāne – bounty of Tane’s Forest for a man like Jim, salt-of-the-earth.

Manawa Honey NZ CEO In Front Of Carvings Of Meeting House

Brenda Tahi – CEO & Trustee

Brenda’s Ngāti Porou, but she’s a local – long-lived in Ruatāhuna – and she’s been running Manawa Honey since we set up in 2013. She loves hunting and horses but is too busy with Manawa to do any of this currently so she reckons it’s time for a change!

Brenda’s had careers in other times and places – in tourism many years ago, and in public service too so that’s different! For a while now she’s been focused on grassroots development in Ruatahuna, to develop our people and land. Of course, that’s what Manawa Honey is all about!

“So much for being semi-retired!” she says. But secretly we know she just loves working with all of us at Manawa Honey.

Favourite honey: Easy – it’s Tāwari – that stunning mountain honey!

Two Jars Of Honey By Manawa Honey NZ Held Out By Manawa Honey NZ Staff Member With Mountains And Trees In Background

Karioi Ki Tahuaroa White – Project & Marketing Support

Karioi is named after her mountains from which she descends – Karioi in Raglan and Tahuaroa of her hapu Ngati Tāwhaki here in Ruatahuna. She covers a lot for Manawa Honey including packing orders, logistics, procurement, label design, and programme support for our youth academy Te Whare o Rehua. Now that’s a talented and adaptable staff member!

Karioi is into her second year with us and is now going into digital marketing. We just love developing our young people in this way, preparing them for what they will do for themselves, their whanau and their hapu in the future.

Karioi loves her animals and is a great young horse-woman, able now to train her own horse from the wilds of our region.

Favourite Honey: Gotta be Tāwari with a mountain name like that

markets and sales donna hatcher christchurch manawa honey nz

Donna Hatcher – Marketing & Sales

Donna is part of the Rua whanau from Waimana and Maungapōhatu, and she works for us from where she lives in Christchurch.  Being a satellite worker is not easy for any team member but Donna is totally passionate about what we do and why.

She tells us that “doing the mahi for Manawa Honey is more than just a job. It’s become a journey of connecting with so many amazing individuals in business and personally.”

Donna enjoys the challenge of researching and finding new stockists. She’s clear on the task in hand: “The retail market for Honey has changed dramatically with the lack of tourists we so need to educate NZ’s consumers the benefits of buying our honey.”

Here in this photo, Donna is in her element, organizing a promotion of our honey and skincare in-store. So proud to see you out there promoting our honey Donna – awesome!

Favourite Honey: Pua-ā-Tāne Wild Forest ‘cos it keeps her connected to the rhythms of our forest here in Te Urewera.

staff member tania wairama manawa honey nz

Tania Wairama – Executive Promotions & Support

Tania hails originally from Titahi Bay in Wellington and has Hungarian whakapapa so we love the special dishes from that tradition that she makes for our lunches at the office! Tania came to Ruatāhuna when her hubby Saul Wairama brought her home to live some years ago. Tania focuses on the promotional side of Manawa Honey including beasts like Amazon, which her words is “a challenge that is very much a challenge!”

Tania has worked in the private and public sector in Wellington in her years there, but on reflection she “enjoys what she does here in amongst the Tuhoe people the most”. She loves arts and crafts, and is currently learning raranga – flax weaving, which she finds is “therapeutic, fun and a nice way to be social”. Love it!

Favourite Honey:  “Tāwari for sure – goes perfectly with lemon in a hot drink and on toast with butter!”

rangi matamua astronomy bee cluster trustee manawa honey nz

Rangi Matamua – Trustee

Rangi is a new trustee for the Tuawhenua Trust, founder of Manawa Honey NZ. He lives much of the time here at Mataatua Marae but he’s a fella in demand as he’s an expert in Maori astronomy and the cosmos. Love it! He’s been a professor at Waikato University but left all that to come home and contribute to the development of our land and our people. Same kaupapa as Manawa Honey.

No, despite the photo, Rangi’s not a beekeeper, but he gets out there to give a hand from time to time. He’s fascinated by how the sun, the stars and the moon all influence the rhythm of life on earth and what that means for bees too.

Rangi also does a bit of hunting when he’s home and even does a possum line or two, to get back into the bush again.

Favourite Honey: Hmm, reckon that would be Rewarewa – full flavour only.

puke timoti trustee tuhoe tuawhenua trust nz

Puke Timoti – Trustee

Puke has recently become a trustee for the Tuawhenua, but for several years Puke has also been a researcher in our research  programmes on matauranga (traditional knowledge) relating to our bush.

Puke’s from Ngai Te Riu hapu of Tatahoata Marae in Ruatāhuna and was raised by his grandparents here in Ruatāhuna. So he learnt from some of the best about life in the bush, and yes he’s a keen hunter alongside his deep interest in matauranga.

Puke’s dedicated to bringing Maori perspectives into policy and practice in environmental management and conservation. He’s found a good place to do this in his work with Landcare Research Manaaki Whenua, and also through his appointment to the NZ Conservation Authority. So he’s walking in different worlds although none of these relate directly to Manawa Honey! But no worries, ‘cos Puke is one of our biggest customers…

Favourite Honey: Definitely Tāwari – we know ‘cos he buys this by the 30kg bucket!

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TRY OUR FOREST HONEYS....

from our vast untouched forests in Te Urewera – homeland of our tribe Tūhoe.
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