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 eqalis.co.nz
*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