Free mānuka seedling offer nearly 200 percent oversubscribed

The offer of 1.8 million free mānuka seedlings by Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) in partnership with Mānuka Farming New Zealand has proved hugely popular with applications totaling 5.2 million seedlings.

Mānuka Farming New Zealand (MFNZ) General Manager Stephen Lee says they were overwhelmed by the huge interest for the seedlings. The initiative contributes to the Government’s One Billion Trees Programme.

“We had 1.8 million mānuka trees available, which would cover about 1,635 hectares in plantings across New Zealand.  Within a week we had 70 applications, totaling 3.6 million seedlings, and covering around 2,841 hectares.

“We now have a big huge task ahead of assessing potential plantations from Northland to Te Anau.”

Mr Lee said the first step is to assess the applications, followed by a series of site assessments to those selected based on size, suitability for planting, and availability of suitable mānuka stock for that location.

Te Uru Rākau has contracted MFNZ to assess the suitability of sites for mānuka to be planted this winter, and to organise the delivery of seedlings to landowners. MFNZ can also help landowners in the establishment of their mānuka plantations.

Although there was no maximum limit on the size of potential plantation sites, ideally larger sites are more suitable as they produce higher quality mānuka honey. The largest land parcel application was 480 hectares with the smallest at 0.5 hectares.

Mr Lee said a condition of the offer is landowners must be ready and committed to planting the mānuka seedlings in 2018.

“Ideally the land is already free of weeds and pests as this will enable planting to take place between July and September,” Mr Lee said.

Although the seedlings are free, landowners are required to cover the costs of packing and dispatching the seedlings from the nursery, site preparation, including pest and weed control, fencing if required, planting costs and ongoing post-plant monitoring.

“MFNZ will be available to provide wrap-around services, including advice, co-ordination and management of planting to ensure greater growing success,” Mr Lee said.

“We have a large range of developed, tested and trialed high performance mānuka varieties designed and tailored for specific regions, as well as eco-sourced varieties suitable for planting at or near their source.”

Mr Lee said the final decisions on which landowners will be offered mānuka will take a couple of weeks.

Those that miss out will get the opportunity to purchase high grade mānuka seedlings for planting in 2019. The sale season for orders is now open and closes at the end of August.

Landowners not participating in this initiative can apply for funding through MPI programmes such as the Erosion Control Funding Programme.

MFNZ will also work with relevant councils and government agencies to help facilitate investment that could be available to landowners for planting.

Julie Collins, Head of Te Uru Rākau, says the offer 1.8 million mānuka seedlings has been a huge success in identifying new plantation potential across New Zealand.

“We are thrilled with the strong interest by landowners keen to plant mānuka,” says Ms Collins.

“We now want to ensure we all get the very best possible outcomes, by ensuring the right mānuka seedlings are matched to the land. MFNZ has experience and expertise in this area.”