13 Apr 2021

Mānuka honey dispute: Te Pitau Trust rejects trans-Tasman agreement suggestion

4:29 pm on 13 April 2021

Suggestions from Australia's trade minister that his country and New Zealand work together to market mānuka honey are getting the thumbs down from a Māori trust.

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Photo: 123rf

Te Pitau Trust is working to protect mānuka honey as a world-wide trading name and has government funding for legal action to stop Australian beekeepers marketing their product as 'manuka'.

The Australian Manuka Honey Association has called for a boycott of New Zealand's honey, unless it changed its mind on sharing the name.

Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan is asking his New Zealand counterpart Damien O'Connor for the two countries to work together and reach a trans-Tasman agreement to market the product to the world.

However, Te Pitau chair Victor Goldsmith said it was acting on behalf of iwi to protect mānuka and it was not going to sell its culture to Australia.

"We've spent a lot of time and money getting us to this position, yes and it is legal, it is litigious, so we need to work through that process because they've gone too far down that track, at the eleventh hour for them to come to 'let's sit around the table and work that through.' No," Goldsmith said.

He said Māori had driven the issue for the last two years and the trust expected Māori to be at the forefront of discussions on the matter.

"There's not a conversation that would need to be had with iwi Māori on what our position would be. It's very clear, that mānuka is a taonga and we will be protecting our taonga for generations to come," Goldsmith said.

Industry happy to share knowledge but not the mānuka name

A mānuka honey group agreed the name should be protected but it was willing to collaborate with Australian producers.

Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association chair John Rawcliffe said the industry would like to share marketing, science, and methods with their counterparts in Australia but the name was off the table.

"It is a taonga, it is recognised in treaty obligations and responsibilities. That's non-negotiable but there's a lot that the Australian honey industry can advance with by us working together," Rawcliffe said.

He thanked the Australian trade minister for offering to deal with the New Zealand government, and hoped to settle the dispute outside of court.

"We want the world honey industry to be in the same vein as cheeses or wine where people can purchase a product, understand exactly where it's come from, share that story, understand its values, and we can add value on top of that. That's what we should be talking about," Rawcliffe said.

RNZ has approached Trade Minister Damien O'Connor for comment.

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