John & Val Helmbright – Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Whakatōhea

The Tairawhiti, East Coast lands offer an opportunity for locals to earn a sustainable livelihood via the high grade Mānuka Honey, Mānuka Oil, and more recently the prospects of Kānuka Oil production.

Tairawhiti Pharmaceuticals, a locally owned trust based in Te Araroa, and lead by Mark Kerr, initiated the Mānuka Oil industry in New Zealand 25 years ago.

Koha Rodgers from Ruatoria, designed and built the first excavator mounted Mānuka harvester in 2008/2009, Murray Kemp and John took his concept and developed a cutter head specifically for this process, and this is the machine that is still in use to date.

John and Val Helmbright wanted to take this further, so in 2015, completed the build of a distillation plant, this is their own unique system that incorporates both low pressure, wet steam and pressurised steam.  They are now producing their own Mānuka and Kānuka Oil.

John and Val have trademarked their own brand, “ALLWILD”, and are developing a range of cosmetic skincare products based on the high triketone Mānuka oil they produce.  Both were bought up with remedies from the ngahere, and Val has always had a keen interest in rongoā since their children were very young.

She has enjoyed trialling her balms and lotions on friends and family, which have had some impressive results and very positive feedback.  The high triketone Mānuka oil from the East Cape has very strong antimicrobial properties and is scientifically quoted as being up to 30 times stronger than the Australian Tea Tree oil.

They have been contract harvesting Mānuka for the past 9 years, and are now focusing on product development and marketing.  To link up with Poutama Trust at this stage of their business development, is perfect timing for them to brand and market their new skincare range.