A blind beekeeper has been told to remove his hives from a Tauranga City Council reserve because some of the lawn mowing contractor's staff are allergic to bee stings.
Bryce Hooton, the 45-year-old owner of Golden Flow Apiaries, was disappointed that the council wanted him gone because his hives had been there for 20 years.
"Things are starting to get over the top when people do not want bees around. Bees are a part of life, they look after us," he said.
The Matamata-based business has 1500 hives, 60 of which sat at the far end of the reserve between the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic's Windermere campus and Sanctuary Point.
Council communications advisor Marcel Currin told the Bay of Plenty Times that public reserves were neither an appropriate nor permissible place to keep private beehives.
He said park staff had been unaware that hives were on the reserve until the mowing contractor phoned to say that some of his staff were allergic to bee stings. There was no record of an agreement with the beekeeper.
"His use of council land to date has been free of charge. He's had a pretty good run."
Mr Hooton responded that lawn mowing contractors should not be employing people that were allergic to bee stings.
He said that when the council told him there was a health and safety issue, he offered to mow the reserve for nothing if the hives were allowed to stay.
"They did not want anything to do with that idea."
Mr Hooton started Golden Flow Apiaries 23 years ago - three years after he went totally blind from two separate dairy farm accidents. He can do every honey task by touch except disease inspection, and the company now exports to four countries.
Mr Hooton recalls a council member giving the go-ahead for hives on his reserve 20 years ago. No money had changed hands, then or since, although he pays a lease to the council to put hives by the Tauranga Airport.
The hives were important to residents living within a wide radius of the reserve because the bees pollinated fruit trees, along with whatever else in a garden that needed pollinating, he said.
A polytechnic horticultural tutor, who supports maintaining the hives, may be able to help if he agrees to take over ownership of the land.
Mr Currin said the council has agreed in principle that the ownership of the reserve might transfer to the polytechnic and a report was going to the council later this year.
"If the polytechnic ended up owning the land, the beekeeper would be free to pursue a lease agreement with them."