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Perth company grows one million trees with hopes of establishing lucrative manuka honey industry


Updated 1 March 2016 at 4:31 am
First posted 1 March 2016 at 3:11 am
A bee pollinates a tea tree flower.

A honey bee pollinates the flower of New Zealand tea tree variety Leptospermum scoparium, which makes manuka honey. (Supplied: Paul Callander)
Tea tree trials in the south-west of Western Australia could lead to a lucrative local manuka honey industry.

Highly sought after for its anti-bacterial properties, manuka honey is made from the pollen of the New Zealand tea tree, Leptospermum scoparium.

A Perth group hopes tea tree trials lead to manuka honey success ( ABC News )
In some parts of the country researchers are looking at how Australian tea tree species could be used in the production of manuka.

But a Perth group said it believed its best hopes for success in the manuka market was to recreate the product made from the original New Zealand species Leptospermum tree.

Due to its antibacterial properties, manuka honey is worth between $40/kilo and $100/kilo, much more than the standard price of $5.50/kilo for West Australian honey.

Great potential for industry
Perth businessman Paul Callander has imported Leptospermum seed varieties from the north island of New Zealand into Western Australia.

Mr Callander and his colleagues are growing one million trees in a Manjimup nursery in the south-west of the state.

He said if he could work out how to grow the trees successfully, there was great potential for the establishment of a WA manuka honey industry.

“We’re in the process of planting those out in June of this year,” he said.

"In parallel we’re working closely with the universities to try and build a database of all [Australian and New Zealand] Leptospermum varieties around.

“We’re looking to partner with the bee industry to grow a really sustainable population.”

Rabbits and roos leave trees alone
Consultant Tony Woods is working with Mr Callander to establish the tea tree population.

Mr Woods believed the trees were suited to the soil types and environment, just like Australian tea tree varieties.

It won’t come tomorrow, but we’re willing to work for the next few years, and if we can get it right, I think it will be really beneficial.

Brendan Fewster, beekeeper
But he said there was still a lot of work to be done in the trials.

“We’ve had a lot of rabbits and a lot of roos out there and they’ve left it alone,” he said.

"And we’re hoping out of those trials, as well as other trials from all over New Zealand, we’ll be able to start to select the right varieties.

“Some of the varieties are from coastal varieties, and some are from salty country, some of them are from wet country and some from dry country.”

Mr Woods said he was still unsure of how the trees would “translate” into the Western Australian environment.

Apiarists excited about Manuka potential
Beekeeper Brendan Fewster said if the plants did grow and flower successfully, the manuka industry could be a goldmine for local honey producers.

Mr Fewster believed there was huge potential for manuka honey production in WA.

“It’s sort of only in vogue in the past three or four years where there’s been more interest in ‘active honey’,” he said.

“It won’t come tomorrow, but we’re willing to work for the next few years, and if we can get it right, I think it will be really beneficial.”

Mr Fewster said Western Australia could also capitalise on its reputation for having some of the healthiest bees in the world.

He said that would make WA a successful competitor to the original New Zealand manuka product.

“While we [are] clean green, antibiotic and chemical free in our hives, while we’ve got that we’ve got to really run with that,” he said.

“I think we could get above most other places, purely because of the cleanness of our product.”


It’s encouraging to hear that more trees are being planted. It’s a little bit sad that they are being planted as a “trial”. We need more trees to be planted full stop. Trial or no trial.

Leptospermum species for honey. Araucaria species for sustainable timber. Araucaria bidwillii as well as Araucaria araucana to contribute to future food security.

More & more trees to offset carbon.


your spot on Jeff- if one thing is clear it’s that BILLIONS of trees need to be planted to replace the TRILLIONS that humans have chopped down over the last few hundred years. People worry a lot about human population growth but instead of becoming fearful of migration we need to look at all those people as an amazing resource- millions of people can plant billions of trees. Same goes with unemployment: we should mobilize the unemployed to plant trees- a huge effort like they did in WW2 to make weapons- but instead to save the planet.


I agree Jack. Talk about wars. Can you imagine how many trees it took to make charcoal in order to make weapons of war during medieval times & throughout history.

Anyway the A.araucana (monkey puzzle tree) is listed as “endangered”. They would be great to grow in the right areas, because they grow tall with no branches up the trunk, which would mean you could grow other trees in between them. They live up to a thousand years. Also after 30-40 years, they produce huge quantities of large pine nuts. An ideal food source for future generations. We often hear the term “food security” mentioned on the radio in relation to future generations.

The cousin , A.bidwillii (Bunya Pine) can be grown for the same purpose, except in warmer climates.


Agree, planting trees is a good thing. Just wonder why Manuka where jarrah and marri live?
Nothing wrong with jarrah and marri honey, it’s just less explored as yet. Apparently it fetches a good price overseas. I reckon Japan and China know a lot more about WA honey than Australians do.


Id say it’s because the Kiwis did such a good job with the brand so we’re feeding off it as us Aussies are too lazy to market our own product. :wink:
A testing lab opened here recently and once the medicinal values were proven the wholesale price of jarrah and marri honey doubled over night! Keeping in mind that 20 years ago Manuka honey was fed to livestock as it wasn’t a desired taste, jarrah and marri honey have always been in demand purely due to the taste.
Marri and especially jarrah don’t flower each year unlike Manuka either.
I’d rather jarrah honey over manuka any day but at the end of the day you need to feed the fish what the fish wants.


One doesn’t need to support a fad. Trust your instinct and plant locals.
And post me a jarrah and a marri tree for planting for the future please. Sure they grow out East in the hills?

There is a corporation here to get beeks signed up for Manuka growing and selling the honey to them. Great scheme for their riches, but thanks.


Some time back, there was an article in the media about this Indian guy who would spend all his spare time planting trees. today the area where he planted those trees is a National Park and highly valued by all the folks living around there.
If ONE man can do that over thirty years, what could 30,000 do over a year ???


No getting into the market here now.


I also have a memory of Manuka honey being a trademarked name in NZ.

When I heard of all the tree planting to promote manuka in Australia it saddened me.
The Australian government or other bodies could be researching and promoting the beneficial effects of local Australian honey and tree species.
I remember buying local tea tree honey from the West End (Brisbane, Australia) markets many years ago and being told of the great benefits and similarities to Manuka, but manuka had stronger marketing.
I was told it was being researched in universities, but I guess money isn’t going into promoting it.
IMHHO (in my honest humble opinion)


Well said Faroe! I prefer our beautiful honey any time.
Leave Manuka to the New Zealanders, they did the ground work.
I am sure Aussie honeys have advantages that are just not explored and scientifically proven yet.


From the article.
"Australia medicinal honey industry has a challenge to market appropriately 83 varieties of Leptospermum plants in Australia which produce honey with superior readings than New Zealand’s Manuka honey. "
Superior readings? Challenge? Really?
I hear Paul Hogan is suing a restraunt here because they had “This is a knife” on the knife cover… Word is that he has sued before for the same thing and won.
Perhaps the Chinese should sue for the Chinese gooseberries sake. :slight_smile:

We’re already exporting to China and ironically we are buying their sugar laden honey, mixing it with a small portion of our home grown honey and selling it in the supermarkets as an Australian product as country of origin is not compulsory to be labeled. Disgraceful. Capilano is a major offender and if you haven’t signed this petition in protest I urge you to.

Why aren’t we promoting our own unique tea tree factor? Or perhaps there needs to be an international unique medicinal factor.

Medicinal or not, I’m in it for the flavour, they can keep the Manuka.

Not really into rhino horn either.


Australia of all places should know the perils of planting alien species on such a huge scale…


@Semaphore Yes, trillions of trees need to be planted, but one can’t just plant what one wants. There should be thorough research done on the climate, topography etc, and then the best suitable indigenous trees, that flourished there before humans came along, should be the only option. Unless, of course, it’s for (regulated) agricultural purposes.


whilst I broadly agree- with climate change, and also with the extent of habitat destruction- in many situations it won’t be feasible to grow what was there before. We are going to have to start looking at migrating habitats- and creating new ones. In some cases non native plants may be used for a period to help establish ecosystems more quickly- to anchor, recreate soils etc. In nature things never stay the same- what was once foreign becomes native, etc. The dingo was only introduced to Australia 5 to 8 thousand years ago- yet its now known as a native animal. In 5 thousand years I imagine our feral cats will have evolved into native big cats too.


It doesn’t require anyone to believe in it, for it’s a fact.

That would require a super human feat, as you would need to reinvent an entire ecosystem, fungi, different plants and all the fauna adapted to specific plants. What if we manage to keep the warming down to under 2°C and in future bring it down? Then you’d need to change everything back.

Non-native plants change the soil, introduce new types of nutrients that native plants can’t thrive with, introduce invasive microorganisms, pathogens, change the balance, as native fauna might not be able to adapt to the introduced species. Also, introduced species reproduce and multiply, and on many occasions detrimental effects are only noticed once the non-native plants are introduced/established en masse. An equilibrium takes a long time to establish, and a lot of diversity will be lost.

Correct, although nature has never in history changed as rapidly as has been the case now. Our destruction of species is unprecedented, and even has a name: It’s being called the Anthropocene extinction. This is happening in a period of hundreds of years. Even the dinosaurs took 1000s of years to die out.

It is our responsibility to leave this world better than we found it. Yes, things change all the time, and if a species get wiped out by a Tsunami, so be it. But whatever we messed up, we need to do our utmost to fix.


all true- however given the dire nature of the situation uncomfortable imperfect actions will be forced on us whether we accept/like it or not. We have already introduced a vast array of non native flora and fauna and will continue to do so. We have wiped out entire ecosystems irreversibly- we have forever changed the soil profiles, water catchments, etc. Climate change means habitats are migrating as I type- alpine plants are moving upwards, fish are moving into waters that were once too cold, etc. In order to save some of our biodiversity we will have to relocate habitats ourselves. We will have to intervene. we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. No matter what we do a lot of diversity has been lost already and much more to come.

In the longer term, if humanity is to survive- let alone thrive- I see that we will have to become adept at the creation of artificial orchestrated bio-diverse habitats. We will have to master the fungi, the microorganisms, and strive for the balance. There will be massive errors, more ‘cane toad’ type disasters.

There is an Australian farmer who has done extensive re-vegetation work sometimes using ‘invasive plants’- controversially- but with amazing results- Peter Andrews.


You misinterpreted what I wrote. I meant it to read: ‘whilst I broadly agree [with what you wrote]’. With climate change…’

I know climate change is a fact


We have to prepare for fallout from climate change, however I believe the largest focus needs to be on conservation and restoration.

The Cape Floral Kingdom, in whose boundaries I live, is 78,555 km2, a little smaller than Panama/Czech Republic, and contains 9600 species of plants, of which 70% are endemic. It’s the richest and smallest floral kingdom in the world and has a larger variety of plants than the Amazon. This variety came about, contrary to what one would believe, due to the harsh conditions: poor soil, high winds, low rainfall, hot dry summers, wet winters. Within this biome, there are plethora of microclimates, which further helped boost the astounding diversity.

What I’m trying to say, is that firstly, trying to recreate this diversity would be impossible and futile. Secondly, warming conditions, although happening at an astounding pace, could lead to local plants adapting, possibly giving rise to a higher diversity. Should one not exhaust all possibilities in assisting these plants to adapt rather than introducing new plants that could possibly further upset the balance?

@Semaphore I think you and I are on slightly different sides of the same camp. I wish we didn’t have to debate these matters. However, debating with you is nevertheless rewarding. Thanks.


May we please talk about bees too? Pretty please?? With honey on top??? :heart_eyes:


Good morning Dawn, I can talk about bees. More to the point of a slime out, which is off topic. A bloke that I sold bees to a couple of years ago delivered & donated his traditional hive & frames to me after it had been sitting around for 12 months after a slime out. What a mess. I’ll talk about something new that I learned about slime out on the other thread. cheers