Bees are producing a new manuka honey blend at the Reefton Restoration Project, with community and the environment the real winners

When the Buller District Council’s Socio-Economic Development Officer Rachel Fifield first stepped into Reefton’s Broadway Team Rooms and spotted a jar of the small town’s famed Browkins Honey, she had an idea.

OceanaGold – the global miner funding Rachel’s position for three years through the Reefton Restoration Project’s Socio-Economic Governance Fund – had planted a 250-hectare parcel of land with manuka and beech varieties to boost pollination of native species and increase biodiversity at the site. Rachel immediately saw the link.

“The local shop keeper pointed me to Oscar Brown, the founder and apiarist at Browkins, who’s partner happened to work out the back of the shop,” Rachel said.

“My job is to connect people and develop solutions that safeguard an economically diverse future for Reefton, post-mining,” she said.

“I thought, this is too good an opportunity to pass up: a small, local honey producer who could potentially expand his business through accessing this lush landscape at the Reefton Restoration project, which also met the Project’s environmental objectives. Gladly, both he and OceanaGold shared my enthusiasm.”

Browkins Honey, OceanaGold and the Reefton Visitor Centre have recently entered into a formal partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding to produce, bottle and sell the special manuka honey blend – aptly named ‘Reefton Gold’.

Browkins Honey has so far introduced around 50 hives to the site and will eventually sell the honey through the local I-site and West Coast markets, generating income and providing yet another diversified revenue stream to the region. With the new venture now up and running, Oscar Brown and his family plan to move closer to Reefton.

The Reefton Restoration Project’s Environmental & Restoration Coordinator Steph Hayton said the partnership was a win-win.

“The town of Reefton benefits from the introduction of a new, local family business and our site (the former Globe Progress Mine, now in the rehabilitation phase) is helped along by the pollination process of the bees,” she said.

Long-term, with the bee population doing its job, Reefton’s native species will self-generate and the site will return to its natural state much faster than it would have without the hives.

OceanaGold’s Environment Manager Kerry Watson said this is what responsible mine closure looked like.

“This initiative is community-focused at heart and such a clever, natural way to turn a post-mining landscape into productive land use, while improving biodiversity outcomes,” he said.

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