The Coalition Government is allocating nearly $6 million to a campaign to stop Australian beekeepers marketing their products as "mānuka" honey. This move comes after Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones accused Australian honey producers of trying to steal what was indigenous to New Zealand.
"The Aussies are trying to promote themselves as the owners of the mānuka honey brand. That is wrong culturally, that is a type of economic larceny", the Minister said.
Mānuka honey sells for as much as $400/kg and has purported medicinal benefits, making it a valuable export commodity of New Zealand.
The funding announcement follows the government giving its support to an industry push to trademark mānuka honey in China and shut Australia out of the market.
Through the Provincial Growth Fund, the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society is being granted $5.7 million, including a $1.7 million loan, to help in its bid to secure international property rights.
Minister Jones said the money would be necessary to meet "the costs of securing international recognition of the mānuka property right" and certification in key markets.
"Undertaking more research, promotion and developing a more cohesive commercial entity to hold whatever property rights are secured in the patent courts at an international level,” he said.
"But the most important thing for myself with the mānuka investors and the mānuka players is to ensure that no other country can filch and essentially steal”.
"Mānuka represents a chance to expand jobs and wealth in regional parts of New Zealand and if the Crown doesn't step up and work constructively with our mānuka partners, there's a strong prospect that other international players will walk away with the bulk of the prize," the Minister added.