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Tea tree in NZ – Growing the good oil

Organic NZ Magazine: January/February 2007
Section: Farming and Horticulture
Author: Philippa Jamieson

Tucked away in idyllic Karamea is New Zealand’s only certified organic producer of Australian tea tree oil. Philippa Jamieson visits on a rainy West Coast day.

It’s not a place you simply pass through. Karamea is off the beaten track an hour and a half’s drive north of Westport, with a warm climate and plentiful rain that supports lush grass for dairy cows, and subtropicals like tamarillos and feijoas.

The drizzle turned into steady rain as I walked to Otumahana, Margaret and Hamish Macbeth’s property just
south of the township, near where I was staying. It’s a 3.2 hectare narrow strip of flat land between the Otumahana Estuary and the road. On the east side of the road is a small market garden and a planting of tamarillos, and immediately beyond them the hill rises steeply, with canopies of rata and the umbrellas of tree ferns standing out amongst the thick bush.

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