Suzan Craig talks to us about bees, Kiwis and embedding the 4Cs at Tahi
Suzan Craig, founder of Long Run GER® member Tahi, is reluctant to brag, “What we do at Tahi is on a much smaller scale than other projects — we get so much inspiration from the other Long Run members”. Sitting next to the travel industry’s conservation heavy-weights, Tahi’s achievements may feel like a drop in the ocean. But to most of us, converting 800-acres of derelict farmland into a biodiverse-positive nature reserve, is a phenomenal achievement.
In New Zealand Tahi is a rare case study of a self-sustaining business where conservation benefits everyone. By working The Long Run’s 4C framework — commerce, culture, community and conservation — into every decision, investment and output, Tahi is pathing the way for positive-impact land management. “When we bought the property, there were fourteen bird species left; now there are 70. During that time 14 wetlands have been restored and 310,000 indigenous trees have been planted.” Suzan goes onto explain that each of the 4Cs receive equal attention, “There was just one person employed on the land and now there are 21 full-time staff and over 30 part-time staff. We’ve never received any money from the government so being commercially viable is also vital.”
The Tahi journey started in 2004 when Suzan bought a derelict cattle ranch. With the help of her father, Dr John Craig, a leading expert in landscape restoration, Suzan set about returning the land to nature. The original plan was to use funds from eco-tourism to conserve the land, restore dunes and welcome back native flora and fauna. It quickly became apparent that Tahi would not be able to rely entirely on eco-tourism, so Suzan turned to the land itself, “I could see there was a market for Manuka Honey outside of New Zealand and that by producing it we could provide more jobs locally, in an area that needed new opportunities.”
The Long Run’s 4C’s have helped to differentiate Tahi’s Manuka Honey, “Distributors like our story, the fact we’re doing something positive with profits (100% go back into the project) and the 4Cs are a useful framework to explain what we’re doing.” Having The Long Run’s backing also helps to generate trust in a market inundated with unauthentic products. Tahi is now looking to diversify further by launching a Manuka-based skincare range: “When thinking about sustainability, diversification is key — the honey supply can vary yearly and so we shouldn’t rely on that alone.”
Tahi has been recognised by the UN for its sustainable business approach and its role as a positive example extends far beyond its boundaries: “Most weeks we have schools coming to Tahi to see dune restoration and pest control at work. We also teach bee-keeping and general conservation principles. Some of the schools that take part in our bee-keeping courses sell their own honey to fund other projects.” The ripple effect of Tahi’s work is widespread: “Although we’re just under 800-acres, our pest control programme expands across 2,000-acres and we have partnerships (mostly through bee hives) with over 200 local landowners. Many of those landowners now come to us for advice about land restoration and open days at Tahi enable us to share what we know.”
Beyond the facts and figures, Tahi exudes a sense of hope: hope that business can do good; that nature will triumph despite setbacks; and that we can take from nature while also giving back. For New Zealanders, there’s no better demonstration of this hope than the return of the Kiwi, as Suzan explains, “We’re in our second year of reintroducing Kiwis — it might not mean much to you, but for New Zealanders it is iconic. This bird hasn’t been in this area for 100 years and now we’ve got the opportunity to bring it back to life and restore national identity.” Not many conservation heavy-weights can claim to have done that. As Suzan puts it, “We mustn’t feel inhibited by scale, even if you’ve just got a small back-yard, they’ll be something you can do to make a difference.”