Keeping bees might become easier if Hastings residents calling for change through revised Hastings District Council bylaws are successful.
With submissions closing this Sunday for a draft of the Hastings District Council consolidated bylaw, founder of Save Our Bees charitable trust Janet Luke is calling for others to make a submission to council to change the conditions around beekeeping, and "so we can have a voice with these new bylaws".
Currently, those who keep bees on urban sites or rural sites smaller than 1ha can only do so with writing and a licence from the council to do so, or where a resource consent has been obtained.
A licence to keep bees costs almost $200, and applicants must also get neighbour's approval and potentially have a site inspection.
Approval is not needed for rural areas larger than 1ha and "where fewer than two hives were kept no less than 10m from a boundary".
"Beekeeping doesn't pose a risk, why does it have to be legislated so firmly?" said Ms Luke.
The conditions were "very restrictive" around keeping bees in an urban area.
"Bees are under threat, and they do really well in urban areas because they are away from sprays, they have year-long sources of pollen and food."
Ms Luke said people with hives already paid a fee to a national registry, and paying an additional fee could be a deterrent for some.
For those with only a small number of hives, Ms Luke said they might not keep them or would not register and keep the hives "under the radar".
"The general public are quite fearful of bees, but bees are very gentle ... often we just need to educate the public to allay their fears."
Ms Luke said other councils had recognised the value of bees, and had made beekeeping far easier for the public.
Not only should Hastings be doing the same, Ms Luke said the council "should be leading the way, we are the fruitbowl of New Zealand, we need bees more than any other places".
The proposed bylaw states a person must not keep bees without an approval on premises within the urban area.
They must also not keep them on premises within the rural area which are less than 1ha in area, or if the premises are greater than 1ha in area if the hives are located within 10m of a boundary to the premises.
The annual CPI adjustment also means the application fee to keep bees will rise from $178 to $180 from July 1.
The council's statement of proposal for the consolidated bylaw stated the approval process was seen as a suitable way of keeping a good balance.
This was between "the desire to encourage the keeping of bees, in a district where bees play a very important role in sustaining the local horticultural economy, and the potential for bees to be or become a nuisance when kept in very close proximity to places of residential activity on adjoining premises, or activity in adjoining public places."
John Berry, president of Hawke's Bay Hub of Apiculture New Zealand, formerly known as the Hawke's Bay Beekeepers Association, said the council had to have some way of controlling beekeeping but the legislation raised concerns.
If residents in rural areas keep hives within 10m of the property boundary, they have to apply for a licence.
While newer orchards had the capacity to store hives in the middle of their site, older ones sometimes only had space to store them around the edges of the property, he said.
"Out in the countryside most hives are sited well away from boundaries but in some places the boundary is the only place you can get to," Mr Berry said.
"It's better to have a hive 1m from a boundary with a high hedge in front of it than 10m away."
If people were prevented from keeping hives in this zone, it would have "a huge impact on pollination of orchards".
Mr Berry said he knew of other sites where hives were placed too close to public areas, and could pose a potential risk to passersby. However, he thought council were "over-reacting".
"It's important [council] have some control but they're better off to, say ... do [beekeeping] as a right unless you create a nuisance."
In urban areas the requirement to obtain neighbours' consent and the fee could deter people from registering their hives, Mr Berry said.
While the majority of hives in urban areas were registered, he said the conditions could "push urban beekeeping underground" and also increase the risk of disease.
New Zealand had a major problem with American foulbrood disease, which registering hives helped to contain, he said.
"It's very important people don't keep it under the radar, and most people try and do the right thing," he said.
"A percentage of hives don't get registered already ... it will make controlling the disease worse, and there will be a lot more unregistered hives."
Mr Berry had already made a submission to council and was planning to speak on it.
A council spokeswoman said they were encouraging submissions on the bylaw, and people were welcome to get their thoughts on bees through to them by the end of May 8.