A Wairoa couple say their 800 hives of bees are having to be force-fed sugar to stop them from starving after Landcorp removed them from its land and brought in a Kerikeri company.

Laslo and Cherie Kopilovic say the vast tract of land is now under-utilised for beekeeping, while they now struggle to place their honey bees on other farmland due to "manuka greed".

The couple have been working in the honey industry for the past 10 years and got involved because they loved bees.

When they first started in the industry, they would get an average 55-60kg of honey per hive per harvest - now they might get 32-40kg per hive.


In March 2017, Laslo and Cherie had more than 300 hives based on the Landcorp (Pāmu) run Panekiri Station, a 6500-hectare property located 40km northwest of Wairoa.

Arataki Honey and another beekeeping company from Frasertown were also on the land.

Then Landcorp brought in a Kerikeri company - Revolutionary Beekeeping - which has its hives permanently placed on the land rather than moving them seasonally.

A spokesperson from Landcorp (Pāmu) said the organisation didn't keep bees or provide apiary services, but entered contracts with external beekeepers to place their hives on their farms.

"These contracts are regularly reviewed as they come up for renewal or expiry.

"We had specific interest from a beekeeper who wanted to keep their hives on the farm all year around rather than just through the manuka flowering, to ensure pollination occurs year round. They also provided strategic benefits, complete transparency and a greater commercial return."

Revolutionary Beekeeping was not solely focused on harvesting just manuka honey, but a mixture, Landcorp said.

Kopilovic said finding space for their bees elsewhere was now an ongoing issue and he sometimes had to feed his bees sugar syrup to stop them from starving.


"It's artificial, it's not good for the bees and it's not good for the future."

Kopilovic said even if he was able to place his hives on a farmer's land it didn't stop "out of towners" coming in and attempting to place their hives on the same land.

"They just offer them more money, it's just a money train," he said.

While Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) Beekeeper voluntary Code of Conduct stated that keepers must "respect appropriate distances between his/her hives/apiaries and another beekeeper's hives", the Ministry for Primary Industries said there were no current plans for "legislative change to regulate boundaries".

"We understand that some authorities, including the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, have considered whether or not some controls on hive placements may be feasible through bylaws," a spokesperson said.