The New Zealand Manuka Group is at the top of the Trees That Count leaderboard, thanks to its ongoing efforts to plant native trees. The Eastern Bay of Plenty-based company is committed to protecting the environment. It has planted nearly nine million trees around the East Cape since 2016, with another 540,000 to come before Christmas. “Nurturing and sustaining the land is a huge part of the work the New Zealand Mānuka Group does,” says founder Phil Caskey. “From the land we use to the communities we work with and support, everything is done with care and thought to a long and sustainable future. “We are developing mānuka plantations under long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with landowners. The owners and guardians of the land allow us to use and cultivate tracts of their fertile land into mānuka plantations specifically for medicinal mānuka oil production. Each plantation is developed using and enhancing the skills of local people and is overseen by a dedicated plantation manager who ensures our mānuka trees grow and flourish over their 20-30-year life,” Phil says. To ensure the mānuka plantations are sustainable, the group adopts a ‘whole-of-block’ strategy, with approaches to plant trees for shelter, riparian planting, trees for wetland areas and wetland restoration, trees to catch run-off and prevent erosion, trees for bee health and removal of wilding pine (to be replaced with native trees). The NZ Manuka Group continues to investigate other innovative ways to keep its environmental footprint to a minimum. Other initiatives include using the hydrosol (waste water) produced on its plantations as an effective natural insecticide and returning residual mulch from oil processing to the land to nurture new plants; raw seaweed is added to the mulch before spreading, increasing the nutrients provided to the plants. The NZ Mānuka Group produces a range of manuka products - honey, oils, skincare and toiletries and beverages for domestic and international customers. It sources mānuka honey and oil in the most sustainable and ethical way possible, placing hives on well-researched sites to ensure bees don’t have to travel long distances to collect the nectar from the mānuka flowers. It also employs and trains upskills people from within the local communities where its plantations, factories and operations are based and supports many community organisations and events with sponsorship and donations. Trees That Count is an initiative that encourages and helps Kiwis to plant more native trees, to make an impact on climate change and improve our environment. The conservation charity’s vision is to help plant 200 million native trees across the country, as part of Shane Jones’ ‘one billion trees’ programme.