Matakana Island Joins the Medical Cannabis Industry

Published: Wed 18 Dec 2019 08:44 AM
TAURANGA, Wednesday 18th December 2019: Local whānau on one of New Zealand’s most intriguing islands have just received a licence* to grow medicinal cannabis. Grown outside in the Matakana Island sunshine, Mahana Island Therapies will be one of the only legal and naturally grown cannabis products of its kind in the world.
Matakana is a narrow, 28 kilometre-long sandbar at the head of the Tauranga harbour in the Bay of Plenty. Renowned for its unique geology, history and ecology, the island’s primary industries are forestry, dairy farming, kiwifruit and other horticultural activities. Famed for its stunning surf beach, the island is home to about 200 permanent residents.
Working in partnership with Eqalis, a medical cannabis firm based in Katikati, Mahana Island Therapies has been established with the aim of turning Matakana Island’s ideal growing conditions into a thriving horticultural industry providing future pathways for local residents.
Jason Murray and Aimee Armstrong, at the helm of Mahana Island Therapies are determined to develop a unique business model largely centred on tikanga Māori values. Using age-old concepts of Rongoā (traditional Māori medicine), they intend to grow and manufacture a range of premium healing products to improve the health and quality of life of New Zealanders suffering from chronic illness and pain.
“We see this as our chance to achieve real gains for our people, a way to use our ancestral land effectively to provide meaningful employment opportunities for our rangatahi and grow the health of our island community,” says Jason.
Set at the mouth of the Tauranga Harbour, Matakana Island has a unique micro-climate with high sunshine hours and rich soils for horticultural industries. Mahana means warmth in Māori and the name Mahana Island Therapies reflects the connection the whānau have with the land and its people.
Jason and Aimee have already made their mark on Matakana with a lengthy project to regenerate the natural flora and fauna of the island. Working with Island whānau, Ngā Whenua Rahui, DOC and the local councils they have developed a significant native plant nursery and replanted large areas of wetlands and swamps.
With Jason’s background in biochemistry and marine biology and Aimee’s degree in Māori Development and Geography, the pair are a formidable force for positive, practical horticultural development on Matakana Island.
Aimee is a passionate taiao (environmental) practitioner and has a strong interest in Rongoā Maori, learning to harness the powers of native plants to improve the health of her whānau. Blending the ancient with modern medicinal practices is the ultimate goal for the couple and Mahana Island Therapies.
“Our products are the perfect mix of our past, present and future. By combining our matauranga along with high level science we are creating a new pathway for our people, sharing the knowledge with future generations and fulfilling our role as kaitiaki of our land,” says Jason.
The partnership between Mahana Island Therapies and Eqalis has enabled the Murrays to advance their operation significantly. Eqalis hold two licenses* to grow medicinal cannabis and have partnered with some of the country’s most experienced horticulturalists, scientists, and medical specialists. Their collective experience as well as the research backing of Eqalis’ pharmacy expert, Elizabeth Plant, has been central to Mahana Island Therapies’ establishment.
Eqalis managing director Greg Misson says the partnership between Mahana Island Therapies and Eqalis was a natural fit, “Early on when we established Eqalis we recognised the importance of working with people whose values, goals, and motivations aligned closely with ours. Jason and Aimee epitomise Eqalis’ aims of developing a culture of transparency, determination and innovation”.
“Both Eqalis and Mahana Island Therapies are positioned to bring a comprehensive range of high quality plant-based healing products to the huge numbers of Kiwis currently struggling with pain in our communities.”
Most Kiwis support medical cannabis reform with the Sapere Research Institute reporting that 1 in 5 are struggling with chronic pain conditions, and nearly a quarter of a million Kiwis take regular pain medication. Demand for natural pain relief is high.
To learn more about Eqalis visit
*Mahana Island Therapies and Eqalis have secured licences to grow cannabis for research purposes. Both companies are working on securing several additional licences that include manufacture, wholesale and distribution of pharmacy medicines.

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