Dan the Manuka Man

Posted on May 30, 2018

As I contemplate the article I am about to write, the first thing that comes to mind is that ever popular children’s story book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.

One of the many privileges of working at Kauri Park has been visiting almost every nook and cranny of New Zealand’s truly inspiring landscape.

Upon reflecting on the many and varied places I’ve travelled to consider and advise on the prospect of Manuka plantations, I’ve come to a very important conclusion:  It’s the people you meet that are really important. This time it was Dan and his right-hand Neville, his keen Fox Terrier.

The phone rings, the caller on the other end says “It’s Danny here from the Taranaki”, but it’s hard to make out everything he’s trying to say as the reception is terrible! In between the missing sentences, I manage to take down Dan’s details, he says “He’s sick of chasing fly blown, worm ridden sheep around his large hill country farm, and it’s time for a change”.

Dan had been following the Manuka industry with keen interest, watching the steady stream of bee keepers trucking past his own front gate, going up the treacherous narrow road that leads to the liquid gold mining that his neighbours were now tapping in to. So Dan’s call was no five-minute decision, his mind was already made up, he was just searching for the perfect partner who could assist his dreams of the gold pastures that Manuka would bring him.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Dan, he was what men of old would describe as the “salt of the earth”. His word was his bond, his farm was his castle and he’d die for doing what was right, what he believed in and especially for his right-hand helpmate Neville his ever-faithful Fox Terrier.

I climbed onto the back of Dan’s 4 wheeled bike. Neville pushes in alongside us and the 32-calibre rifle is firmly strapped in the cradle on the front of the bike: an “absolute necessity” on this place says Dan, every 2,720 acres of it!

Dan’s land is majestic, and once we’ve nestled amongst those green rolling hills (now kilometres from his front gate), time seems to slow down, pressure seems to fade and one’s respect for the steward of this land is growing rapidly.

It turns out that Dan was spending serious dollars every year with selective herbicides, trying to control the never-ending army of regenerating Manuka seedlings coming up in his pasture. Common sense is sometimes a scarce commodity, but to Dan, his decision was already made, the 1,350 acres he had identified to be planted in Manuka was a given, but funding was his final barrier.

Kauri Park came to the party, assisting Dan into his dream, and 18 months later 970,000 of Kauri Park’s high DHA yielding Super Manuka were meticulously planted at 2.3m centres. Dan was ahead of his time. The 1 billion tree concept was already in motion as far as he was concerned.

Kauri Park entered into a profit-a-prendre agreement with Dan covering

  • the funding of the plantation
  • utilisation of Kauri Park’s world leading Super Manuka selections for the plantation
  • the establishment and funding of a long-term apiculture unit, dedicated to the property.

These days when Dan phones in, it’s like a call from a lifelong friend. I ask myself what other place in the world would provide the opportunity to meet and engage with such good people?

Dan, thank you for your initiative, and for hanging on the phone long enough in that patchy hill country reception. The opportunity to build our long-lasting relationship and business venture would not have been missed for anything.

By Vern Wearmouth