Ngāti Kuia is one of the oldest iwi in Te Tauihu, the top of the South Island. About 40 percent of their registered members live in the region. Their main marae is at Te Hora Pa in Canvastown.

In 2016 the iwi began a planned process of building whānau skills and commercial capacity, starting with a beekeeping business.

Dave Johnston is the General Manager at Te Runanga:

“Most of our iwi land is in whānau ownership and many whānau have said that they now want to get the skills they need to move back onto their land and make a living. So the beekeeping course is the first of a number of programmes that we will be offering, helping whānau do this.

“The Rūnanga has established a Bee Husbandry course and training apiary at Titiraukawa, near the Pelorus Bridge. The first nine-month training programme started in August 2017.

“This August our third cohort of whānau started their internationally recognised Bee Husbandry Level 3 Certificate in Apiculture. The second whānau group graduated about the same time. Initially the course was offered by the Taratahi Training Centre. Now that has closed our provider is Land Based Training.

We find that whānau are now helping each other and not just with their beekeeping.

“During the programme each of the participants build their own hives, and are given protective clothing and a queen bee.

“Each of the courses has 12 participants (that seems to be the golden number) and we have a good mix of students. For example, in this cohort we have a young man and his grandfather completing this course together. The ages of our student vary with most of our students being 30 years or older.

“Bee keeping takes discipline and the bees are like glue, bringing people together. We find that whānau are now helping each other and not just with their beekeeping. We are learning from working with the bees: things like collaboration, importance of being close to Papatūānuku and caring for the environment.

“This year we produced 400 kilos of honey at the apiary. The rūnanga sold a barrel of honey to a commercial honey exporter: our first sale from the apiary and the proceeds were reinvested back into the training. The remaining honey is used as a koha for whānau.

“We are producing prize winning honey! Last year we won Nelson’s best rural honey award as judged by local bee keepers. We have a wonderful bee tutor, Nigel Costly, so he was rapt.

“We are now starting to look at how some of our whānau can get apprenticeships and gain experience with some of the big honey producers until we can do that ourselves. It takes time to build experience. It’s all part of a bigger plan.

“At the same time, we are working on providing education that will support other sustainable commercial enterprises. For example, we are looking at setting up a native nursery which will include training via the local polytechnic.

“And then there is stone tool making. Ngāti Kuia are referred to as Te Iwi Pakohe, the argillite tribe, because of our history and association to argillite, a metasomatized mudstone. At Titiraukawa we hold wānanga to learn traditional stone tool making. Our tīpuna traded Pakohe throughout New Zealand and Pakohe tools can be found at some of the earliest settlement sites. Pakohe is still worked by Ngāti Kuia today.

“Ngāti Kuia also continue our waka traditions with our new waka Te Hoiere, which will join the Tuia 250 Celebrations. Parts of the waka were built at Titiraukawa.

“As part of our goal to create increased commercial activity for our whānau, we supported the trial of a new Māori night market in Nelson – that’s where whānau can sell their honey and test the market for other things that they make.

“We are also involved in helping to set up a Māori business network for the top of the South so whānau can give and receive practical help with their business development, in a culturally appropriate way.”