Te Pitau Trust is working to secure mnuka honey as a global trade name, and the government has provided funds for legal action to prevent Australian beekeepers from selling their product as’manuka.’
The Australian Manuka Honey Association has threatened to boycott New Zealand’s honey unless the country changes its mind on sharing the brand.
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.
Te Pitau chair Victor Goldsmith, on the other hand, claimed that it was working on behalf of iwi to defend mnuka and that it would not sell its culture to Australia.
“They’ve wasted a lot of time and money getting to this stage, because it’s civil, because it’s litigious, because we need to work into the path because they’ve gone too far down the road, and it’s too late for them to come around and say, ‘Let’s sit around the table and work that out.’ No way, “According to Goldsmith.
Mori, he said, had guided the topic for the previous two years, and the trust expected Mori to be at the forefront of discussions on the topic.
“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 mnuka honey association decided that the brand should be covered, but it was able to work with Australian farmers.
The chair of the Unique Mnuka Factor Honey Association, John Rawcliffe, stated that the industry would like to discuss marketing, research, and practises with their Australian counterparts, 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 praised Australia’s trade minister for agreeing to negotiate with the New Zealand government and expressed confidence that the issue could be resolved outside of arbitration.
“I want the global honey market to be similar to cheese or wine in that consumers can buy a product, understand where it came from, tell the story, understand the values, and we can bring value on top of it. That’s what we should be discussing, “Rawcliffe said.
The RNZ has reached out to Trade Minister Damien O’Connor for comment.