Our Story

We are based at our Otanerau Homestead on Arapaoa Island, which we have lived in and loved since the 1970s.

The Homestead was originally built as a shearer’s cottage at Dieffenbach Point in Tory Channel, and was floated 20km to Otanerau Bay in 1907 and dragged by oxen to its present spot for the same purpose. Over the years the homestead has been the local post office, a farmhouse, derelict and rebuilt

Over the years on Arapaoa, we have been involved with local conservation, ecological and environmental information gathering, and the extensive Māori history of the outer Marlborough Sounds area. Arapaoa Island Mānuka distillers have an interest and committment to environmental sustainability. We live in a sensitive marine environment which we want to protect.

Giant Lampshell at 30m depth in front of the homestead, amateur marine ecological survey

We describe ourselves and our manuka oil distillery as a whānau based, small environmental cottage industry, because we developed from those roots.

Sheep farming on Arapaoa Island declined from the 1980s and with destocking  a lot of land started regenerating – we quickly became surrounded by wild sown mānuka and kānuka .

The “boys”, Roy and Ben were encouraged by Marci, who had become qualified as a massage therapist and wanted to investigate the potential of extracting mānuka oil from this regeneration, for therapeutic purposes. Roy and Ben were employed in fish farming and forestry, and thought this was a bit of “girls stuff”.

But we did it – the first few drops were made with a kettle and a peanut butter jar, then we got the old alcohol still out and had a go – and it worked!

Early tests with alcohol stills on the stove at Otanerau Homestead, 1999 !

That was over twenty two years ago – we got our oils tested and realised we had a beautiful, pure product we could work with.

Our source environment on the island has no industrial or agricultural pollution, as it is quite isolated and boat access only.

We now have an even larger family, who have always been involved with mānuka harvesting, always been amazingly supportive, and some of whom are involved in production and sales now.

Ka kite ano

“Otanerau” – “The Place of One Hundred Men”

Friends and Whānau on Arapaoa Island