$8000 reward to catch saboteurs and thieves attacking North bees

By Mike Barrington

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Two beekeepers have offered rewards totalling $8000 for tip-offs leading to the conviction of saboteurs and thieves attacking their hives.

John Whitehead, of Kerikeri, is offering $5000 for information on the poisoning of about 90 hives on four sites along Paponga Rd, near Broadwood.

And Lindsay Guest, of Kohukohu, has $3000 to reward someone who will tell him who stole 17 hives and tipped seven others over at the Skyline Hill on the West Coast Rd.

Police are investigating both incidents in an industry that is becoming increasingly competitive as retail prices for top-quality manuka honey rise to a massive $400-plus a kilogram.

Mr Whitehead said the poisoning of nearly four million bees in his hives was an inhumane act. "The bees were slaughtered and left as a stinking, rotting mess," he said.

The Paponga Rd hives had been attacked some time between September 17 and October 9.

"Whoever did it must have had a [beekeeper's] suit and tool to open the hives," Mr Whitehead said. Meanwhile, Whangarei Bee Club president Kevin Wallace said yesterday fights between commercial honey producers had been "getting really bad" in the Far North but he was dismayed to hear about the poisoning.

The disputes were about rights to site hives close to large stands of manuka to product honey with "unique manuka factor".

"There used to be an unwritten rule that hive sites should be about 2km apart, but the sites are now almost on top of each other," Mr Wallace said.

Government agencies lacked the resources to deal with increasing hive attacks, he said.

Mr Whitehead suspected "someone wanting to take over my sites" was a possible reason for the poisoning.

Anyone with information can call him on 021 439 623.

Mr Guest said 17 hives had been stolen and others tipped over between 8pm on October 21 and 7am on October 22. Anyone with information can phone him on 09 405 2275 or to write to his father, Bill Guest, at RD2 Kohukohu 0492.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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