A Hastings man has appeared in court charged with receiving three 300kg barrels of stolen honey valued at $40,000.
James William O'Keefe, 41, was arrested and charged after police executed a search warrant in Hastings yesterday morning.
He appeared in the Hastings District Court facing one charge of burglary and another of receiving the stolen honey barrels in relation to the large-scale theft of honey and associated products.
Beeswax, a shotgun and ammunition were also located during the search and O'Keefe was remanded in custody to appear again in September.
Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said the arrest was a good outcome and sent a clear message that the police were taking honey and beehive theft seriously.
The theft of valuable beehives and honey, particularly manuka, had become a growing problem for beekeepers throughout New Zealand, she said.
"It's obviously [driven by] the high value of honey, particularly manuka honey, and police are aware that it's made beehive theft attractive to organised crime . . . unfortunately people want to go for it."
Ms Kos said while several years ago beehive thefts were odd, isolated incidents they were now affecting beekeepers on a much wider scale.
"It's devastating for those beekeepers targeted by thieves and we're pleased to see the police make this significant arrest."
Senior Sergeant Mike Stevenson of the Eastern District Command Centre said police recognised the impact thefts of such nature could have on hardworking business people and our local community.
"While investigations remain ongoing, Hawke's Bay Police were pleased to be able to hold this male to account."
Ms Kos said Apiculture New Zealand and police had been working together to address the issue, including improving intelligence at a national and regional level, as well as educating beekeepers on actions to help keep their honey and hives safe.
Police encouraged anyone with information relating to the theft of honey to contact police through their local station, or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.