The honey gold rush has propelled a whole lot of unfamiliar vehicles out on the road to carry hives around the region, Chris Valentine says.

One of the owners of Kai Iwi Honey, he's been keeping bees for 20 years. Lately a whole lot of other people are doing it too.

Some of them want to cash in without doing the hard work. He and 10 other beekeepers between Santoft and Waverley have had hives, honey or other equipment stolen in the 12 months to July this year.

He's heard that someone has been arrested for the thefts, and that the case is making its way through court.


This season Kai Iwi Honey has four full-time staff and two part-time staff. It has 1500 hives, with more being built. They are spread from Whanganui across to Patea.

Later in the season they will be moved farther out - between Apiti and New Plymouth, with some in Rotorua.

There's a lot more competition for good hive sites now, Mr Valentine said. And with Government trying to crack down on cowboy operators there are annual registration costs to pay and more paperwork to do.

Prices are holding firm, but Mr Valentine is still hoping the industry isn't headed for a crash, like the goat industry had, or a price drop like the dairy industry had.

"You kind of want it to stay in the middle and tick over, and not these gold rush people that think they can make millions over a couple of seasons," he said.

Last year apiarists paid twice and almost three times the going rate for marginal land with lots of mānuka, Whanganui rural land specialist Knud Bukholt said.

This year those wanting to sell it may have already sold. There is not much land of that type for sale but any land with beekeeping potential has been well competed for.

Now he's noticing better land with scattered mānuka selling to partnerships between beekeepers and sheep and beef farmers - with the extra income from bees needed to make the purchase worthwhile.

That could be a good thing, he said, because the partnerships would allow eroding gullies to revert to native bush.

The big four bee companies in the Whanganui region are Comvita/Kiwi Bee, Tweeddale Apiaries, Watson & Son and Henry Matthews' Settlers Honey, he said.