Honey 'stolen' through bees, says Northland Maori trust

By Mike Barrington


Maori are angry over beekeepers gaining access through farmland to place hundreds of hives alongside manuka-covered land next door.

A Maori trust official accused beekeepers of "thieving"by gaining unpaid access to Maori manuka through neighbouring farmland.

The official didn't want to be identified.

He hinted at retaliation if resources were taken which landowners would like to develop themselves to better their families' lives.

Battle lines in Northland bee wars emerged after the Northern Advocate last week published a report about two North Hokianga apiarists offering a total of $8000 in rewards for information leading to the conviction of people who stole or sabotaged their hives.

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

And Lindsay Guest, of Kohukohu, offered $3000 for information about the theft of 17 hives and the vandalism of seven others at the Skyline Hill on the West Coast Rd.

Mr Guest said yesterday he had not yet heard from anyone wanting to claim the reward.

Mr Whitehead could not be reached for comment.

Beekeepers in Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Kamo and Wellsford have also reported hive thefts in 2011/12 and at least one man has been convicted of receiving stolen beehives.

But Northland police communications manager Sarah Kennett said beehive thefts were difficult to separate from other thefts, so it would be difficult to provide details of offences relating only to apiaries.

Three beekeepers phoned the Advocate last week to protest over the report, saying the incidents were linked to retail prices for top-quality manuka honey increasing to more than $400 a kilogram.

The price was taken from the Comvita New Zealand website, where 250g jars of manuka honey with a 20+ Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) are offered for sale for $106.50.

UMF honey contains antibacterial properties not found in ordinary manuka honey.

The UMF trademark can be used only by Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association members.

The Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI) says beekeepers were over the past year paid $8 to $15 per kilogram for bulk non-active manuka honey, $12 to $14 per kg for UMF5+ and up to $50 per kg for UMF20+.

A hive produces 20-25kg of honey annually.

Comvita is one of the country's major apiarists, operating in the Kerikeri area since 1989.

Asked about the struggle for hive sites, Comvita communications manager Julie Chadwick said: "We have seen a significant increase in competition for apiary sites in recent years."


- Northern Advocate

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