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Iwi, Industry And Government Unified In Stance To Protect MANUKA HONEY In Aotearoa New Zealand’s ‘Champagne Moment’

Iwi, Government and the Mānuka Honey Industry are unified in their stance to protect the term Mānuka for all New Zealanders following opposition to registration of the term MANUKA HONEY at a hearing at the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) on 18 August, 2021. “

The goal is to protect the term MANUKA HONEY internationally so that it may only be lawfully used on honey produced in Aotearoa. For Māori, this means that our reo is respected and a precious taonga (treasure) is being honoured and protected. For consumers, it means that they can trust they are getting genuine honey produced in New Zealand from our Mānuka trees. It also protects the industry, export earnings and jobs,” said Pita Tipene, Chair of the Mānuka Charitable Trust (MCT).

“There are some similarities to when wine producers everywhere started branding their sparkling wines as champagne, until the French took ownership. Now anything labelled Champagne must be from that region. For us it runs even deeper because Mānuka is our taonga (treasure) and our reo (language),” said Pita.

The quest to protect Aotearoa New Zealand’s taonga via Certification Trade Marks started in August 2015. Certification Trade Marks are being sought in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, United States, Europe and China. A Certification Trade Mark differs from a normal Trade Mark in that it is available to any qualifying producer (subject to rules). The intent is for the MANUKA HONEY Certification Trade Mark to be available to all producers of genuine honey produced in New Zealand on a non-discriminatory basis.

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Aotearoa New Zealand is the only country in the world that has a formal, scientific definition for honey derived from Mānuka which is regulated by the Ministry for Primary Industries. This definition requires that all honey exported from New Zealand under the name MANUKA HONEY meets test requirements, ensuring it is unadulterated and true to labelling. This enables consumer confidence in this genuine and unique honey of New Zealand.

“We welcome the opportunity to stand up to protect our reo the taonga that is embodied in the term MANUKA HONEY through an independent and rigorous process. We are humbled, strengthened and grateful for the level of support we’ve received for this kaupapa from iwi, across all aspects of the industry and government. We have solidarity as we seek to protect what is a precious taonga,” said Pita.

“All countries, including Australia, have their own unique honeys and for the international honey industry to advance, the use of names that are specific to indigenous honeys should be encouraged, they are key to moving away from a bulk commodity position.”

“We are strongly of the view that it is not appropriate for honey producers in another country to use the name MANUKA HONEY when the plant the nectar came from did not grow in Aotearoa. Securing Certification Trade Marks, is a step towards recognising iwi as kaitiaki (guardians). Industry and Iwi therefore share a common goal, albeit from slightly different viewpoints,” Pita added.

The term MANUKA HONEY refers to honey that comes from the nectar of the Leptospermum scoparium tree in New Zealand and has unique properties that are not found in honey produced in other countries.

The Mānuka tree is considered Māori taonga, a treasure with deep cultural meaning. It has long been used in Rongoā Māori, the traditional Māori healing system, which encompasses herbal remedies, physical therapies and spiritual healing.

MCT is a charitable trust established in 2020. It was formed as the guardian of the taonga, Mānuka and is representative of Māori from across Aotearoa. 

Exports from the sale of genuine honey sourced from Aotearoa New Zealand equated close to $436m last year alone.

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