The Northland Regional Corrections Facility (Ngāwhā prison) has staged what is expected to be the first of many apiculture (Level 3) graduations.

The course began in August last year with nine inmates, six of whom graduated last week - the other three were unable to be there - and are now qualified to work in the beekeeping industry or look after their own hives on family land.

They will potentially be contributing to a $5 billion industry built on around 800,000 registered hives through the country that produce some 20,000 tonnes of honey every year.

Tutor Sean Murphy (left) and Corrections' assistant regional commissioner Alastair Riach checking some of Ngāwhā prison's hives. Photos / Debbie Beadle
Tutor Sean Murphy (left) and Corrections' assistant regional commissioner Alastair Riach checking some of Ngāwhā prison's hives. Photos / Debbie Beadle

Some of the Ngāwhā honey was entered in this year's Corrections competition, won by Tongariro, where it was highly commended, providing the opportunity to see how other facilities work with the bees and their byproducts, and a better understanding of what the judges were looking.

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Tongariro prison is now looking at setting up a honey extraction plant, in partnership with a commercial producer.

The Ngāwhā project began with 13 hives, on mānuka-covered prison land, which had expanded to 47 by the time the course was completed.