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Minister Lauds East Coast Iwi Initiative

News Release July 3, 2003

Minister Lauds Market Leader's East Coast Iwi Initiative

Award-winning Comvita New Zealand yesterday presented East Coast iwi with a cheque for $11,700 representing the proceeds from the first collection of honey from beehives installed on Maori land at Waipiro Bay, East Cape.

Commenting on the ground-breaking initiative between Comvita and Ngati Porou, the Minister of Maori Affairs, Mr Horomia, said from Parliament yesterday he congratulates all those involved in the project for their vision and the professionalism they have displayed.

"I always enjoy recognising the diverse talent and innovative programmes that our people are engaged in," said the Minister.

"This is a good example of iwi working together with a successful company to provide positive outcomes. Congratulations to Ngati Porou - especially those people from Waipiro Bay who had the foresight to give projects like this a chance."

Mr Horomia said Comvita is an example of a business that has gone from humble beginnings to one which was last month named Consumer Products Exporter of the Year for 2003.

In presenting the cheque to hapu representatives at the Kiekie Marae, Comvita CEO Graeme Boyd described the occasion as another step in an ongoing journey.

"The next step in the journey is for the land-owners involved to identify a suitable candidate, or candidates, to be trained in beekeeping," he said. "Comvita will assist with this process."

Comvita's executive director Alan Bougen reminded the land-owners the concept behind the initiative was for the hapu to eventually purchase the hives and run them as a stand-alone operation. "This venture provides a wonderful opportunity for the land-owners around Waipiro Bay to produce active manuka honey on otherwise unproductive land," said Bougen.

More than 12,000kgs of honey was collected last January from the 300 beehives supplied by Comvita - a top result according to the company's operations manager, Chris Elmsly.

"The hives each yielded around 40kgs of honey," said Elmsly. "This as a very good start. The result reflected the excellent (honey collection) season Comvita enjoyed nationally."

Extraction of the honey from Waipiro Bay was carried out at beekeeper Stephen Weenink's Bay of Plenty extraction facility. The product was packaged at Comvita's Paengaroa manufacturing plant.

Only a small amount of the honey collected had the unique manuka factor (UMF), the special antibiotic property unique to manuka honey. This does not concern Elmsly who points out the vagaries of climate and other unknown factors could just as easily result in all next season's honey having a high UMF.

Manuka honey is taken for digestive health and used as a topical application to help heal wounds. Comvita's WoundCare product is becoming increasingly popular, here and overseas, as its healing properties become known.

Graeme Boyd said the positive start to the East Cape project bodes well for duplicating this (project) with other iwi in areas where manuka thrives - such as Northland and parts of the central North Island.

The East Cape project began last year with the delivery of 300 hives, along with their resident bees, to strategic locations around Waipiro Bay. The hives, valued at approximately $40,000, were sourced from the South Island to avoid varroa mite problems.



Comvita Fact Sheet follows

Fact Sheet Updated June 19, 2003

Comvita New Zealand Limited Comvita had its beginnings in the beekeeping interests and nutritional philosophies of its founder Claude Stratford. Claude (92) started the business at the age of 64. Using nature's gifts from the honeybee as key ingredients, Comvita makes natural healthcare products to the highest quality standards.

The company's philosophy is based on the belief that prevention is better than cure. This philosophy is reflected in its products for immune-boosting, digestive health and general wellness. Much of its new product development is focused on holistic health solutions that address conditions synonymous with ageing.

Comvita's manufacturing plant at Paengaroa, in the Bay of Plenty, is licensed and audited to the internationally-recognised GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standard.

Today, Comvita employs more than 80 people in New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Its specialist teams work alongside scientists and research organisations to create safe, effective health solutions based on the very best natural ingredients New Zealand has to offer.

Comvita has been the recipient of many awards including Kiwifruit Coast Business of the Year Best Export Business 1991, BOP Export Institute Exporter of the Year 1991 and '99, NZ Honey Food & Ingredient Innovation Award 1994, Air New Zealand Export Excellence Regional Exporter 1996, British Airways Asian Export Award 1996, Best Regional Business of the Year 2001 and the 2003 Consumer Products Exporter of the Year in the Trade New Zealand National Export Awards.

A listing on the Unlisted Securities Market in September 2002 - with a fully imputed one for six bonus issue - signaled a major step forward for Comvita. Sales in 2002 were up 14 per cent on the year before with international sales growing strongly.

Comvita is currently taking steps toward listing on the NZX's new AX market.

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