Australian honey producers claim 'mānuka' may not be Māori

Australian honey producers are calling for a cease-fire with New Zealand over the naming rights of Mānuka honey.

They want Kiwi producers to work with them to assert joint dominance over global markets.

And despite wanting a slice of the Mānuka honey pie, they're now saying 'mānuka' may not even be a Māori word.

Mānuka honey is synonymous - you'd think - with New Zealand, but the Australian Mānuka Honey Association says that's not the case, and it's boss, Paul Callander, is questioning whether the word is even from here.

When asked whether the very word 'mānuka' comes form Māori language, Mr Collander replied: "No I don't think so. I'm not sure it's just a NZ word and that's the problem.

"There's a whole group of people here that have got scientific and historical data that says it's coming from Australia as well."

Traci Houpapa from the Federation of Māori Authorities says that's rubbish.

"I think it's a ludicrous to be frank. This is an issue that another country, another market, another consumer base is trying to take mānuka - a Māori word - for the purposes of commercial benefit and it's unacceptable."

Newshub also spoke to a Māori Language expert from Victoria University, who says 'mānuka' is as Māori a word as 'Māori' itself.

Our industry is now trying to ensure that only products coming from New Zealand can carry the word, with a decision in the UK finding in their favour - a decision that those across the ditch want to overturn.

Ms Houpapa thinks the Aussies should mind their own bees:

"Australia should be staying in its own country and working out its own brand, its own whakapapa and its own history with its own indigenous people."

The New Zealand Mānuka Honey Appellation Society's John Rawcliffe says the word 'mānuka' is practically a country-of-origin stamp.

"We're discussing the use of the term and protecting the term 'Mānuka honey' for the international consumer. So they know, when they purchase that product and they pick up that jar of honey and they see this word mānuka, it's come from where it should of come from and that's New Zealand."

Mr Rawcliffe doesn't want to battle with the Australian industry, but says there's no room for sharing the word.

"You have good honey, you have your own unique names, you have your own unique language. Use it, define it, protect it - that's the message to them, we all win."

He says quite simply that 'mānuka' is a Māori word and it's up to Māori who uses it.