Trans-Tasman battle over the term mānuka honey heats up again

A trans-Tasman battle over the term mānuka honey is heating up again.

The Kiwis have withdrawn their appeal of a decision not to allow them to trademark the term - and the Aussies are claiming victory.

But the New Zealand industry is saying, taihoa, mate - it's not over yet.

Neil Stuckey from Waitemata Honey Co has been producing and selling manuka for over 40 years.

"It can be up to $100 - the equivalent in clover honey would be $5 a kilo," he said.

The Australian Manuka Honey Association claims manuka is a generic term as opposed to a Māori word because it is often written without a macron over the a.

Stuckey says that's just opportunism.

"They certainly jumped on the bandwagon when manuka became very well-known around the world and became quite valuable," he said.

Manuka honey is made by bees feeding on the pollen of the Leptospermum scoparium plant, known as 'manuka' in New Zealand and 'tea tree' in Australia.

"Australia has expanded this term to another 86 species - it's like calling an orange a lemon or mandarin," said John Rawcliffe from the UMF Honey Association NZ.

The New Zealand industry has spent $3.5 million fighting to trademark the term manuka. A UK High Court rejected the trademark. New Zealand appealed but has just withdrawn that, and refiled. Australia is claiming victory.

"It is a fairly major win for the Australian manuka honey industry in that we are able to use the word manuka," said Paul Callander, Australian Mauka Honey Association.

But the Kiwis say not so fast.

"This has not knocked us, it has actually bonded an industry and its partners to ensure we are able to continue the fight," Rawcliffe said.

And it's a fight worth continuing because mānuka exports are forecast to reach a billion dollars by 2028 and while there's no trademark yet, there are smaller victories.

"It's been successful in holding back a big flood of other honey calling itself manuka," Rawcliffe said.

Because the New Zealand manuka industry doesn't want this precious liquid gold to be devalued by Australians flooding the international market.