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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

Conference Calendar

While the major social event of the New Zealand beekeeping calendar of recent years, Apiculture New Zealand’s (ApiNZ) multi-day national conference, is being wound back to a singular “Summit Day” in 2024, beekeepers will not be without a calendar of get-togethers and educational experiences this winter. Various industry groups and businesses having set dates for events in North and South islands, from centres as diverse as Hamilton, Whanganui, Paengaroa and Ashburton.

Since its formation in 2016 ApiNZ has hosted large conferences each winter, held in the likes of Rotorua, Taupo, Christchurch and Blenheim, which at their height attracted well over 1000 delegates. With attendance numbers back into the hundreds in recent years as the beekeeping industry contracts amidst falling honey prices, the decision to move to a “Summit Day” in Hamilton, Tuesday June 18, has been made.

Diminishing attendance to ApiNZ’s national conferences, such as here in Rotorua 2023, has meant it will move to a one-day event this June. There looks set to be plenty of other beekeeping get-togethers on the calendar though.

The focus of the summit will be the Honey Industry Strategy released by ApiNZ this year. The AGM will also take place and, while the programme has yet to be confirmed, they plan to include more to entice beekeepers to attend, chief executive Karin Kos has said.

What can be confirmed is, unlike the multi-day events of the past, there will not be a trade-display, and the event will be held at Waikato University. The university is an institution which the New Zealand honey industry owes decades of prosperity too, following Peter Molan’s groundbreaking research into the bioactivity of mānuka honey there in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Outside of the Summit Day, ApiNZ is also working through plans for a “roadshow” of meetings with one topic to the fore.

"Progressing the Honey Industry Strategy is a major focus for us this year and so it will be discussed at our Summit Day, and we hope to have various other smaller get-togethers with beekeepers in different parts of the country where we can discuss and improve it too. Dates for these have yet to be confirmed though," Kos says.

Bookending Events

While the ApiNZ Summit Day will be a stand-alone, single-day event on June 18, either side of it will be other beekeeping get-togethers in the region.

Monday June 17 will see the 5th iteration of The New Zealand Honey Bee Research Symposium take place at Plant and Food Research’s Ruakura site, the home of apiculture research for the company, and about 4km from the university. Last year the Research Symposium was held a day ahead of ApiNZ’s conference in Rotorua and drew around 120 people to learn of the latest findings from academia, scientists and research beekeepers. Organiser Prof. Phil Lester says they are hoping to continue that interest level.

The trade display, which has been a staple of ApiNZ conferences in recent years, will not be included in the Summit Day in Hamilton on June 18.

“It has been a reasonably successful model and beekeepers have been happy with it, so we will keep it in a similar vein and we will be keeping registration costs as cheap as possible, especially with Plant and Food Research kindly donating their venue,” Lester says.

Beekeepers making their way to Hamilton will be able to fill their Monday at the Symposium, Tuesday at the ApiNZ Summit Day and Wednesday, June 19, supply company New Zealand Beeswax are planning an open day and science workshop.

“When the conference was pushed back to a summit day, we rang around beekeepers to see what they would be missing,” NZ Beeswax general manager Nick Taylor says.

“Unanimous feedback supported the ability to socialise and network with other beekeepers, and also an interest in real-world, practical science, that can be applied in beekeeping businesses today.”

Therefore, that will be the focus of the NZ Beeswax workshop, with various experts from around New Zealand and potentially the world expected to speak to beekeeping science. The event will be open to all beekeepers and held at the Distinction Hotel.

SNIBG Go Big

The Southern North Island Beekeeping Group (SNIBG) say they are wanting to fill the void left by the slimming-down of ApiNZ’s conference and are in the early stages of putting together a three or four day conference, to be held in Whanganui, August 10-13.

SNIBG is well-worn at hosting such events, having put on three over a 20-year period when they operated as a branch of ApiNZ’s predecessor, the National Beekeepers’ Association. The most recent of those was in June 2014.

“We will be going back to the old format of Sunday as a hobby day, Monday, Tuesday and perhaps Wednesday as seminar days,” a press release from SNIBG states.

The changing nature of varroa management is likely to be a focus of the event and anyone interested in presenting a paper at the conference on beekeeping topics relevant to New Zealand beekeepers is invited to contact the conference secretary Frank Lindsay via email, lindsays.apiaries@gmail.com.

NZBI Go on the Road

The Honey Industry Strategy, released by ApiNZ in February, is set to be a main topic of the talk at six different Discussion Days organised by New Zealand Beekeeping Inc (NZBI). Three in the North Island and three in the South.

NZBI was highly critical of the Strategy upon release, declaring it “dead on arrival”. The six gatherings, spread across May and June, will be used to determine beekeeper sentiment on the strategy.

“These discussions will guide how we move forward,” NZBI president Jane Lorimer says.

“If we find we are offside to what beekeepers are thinking then we will really need to give more thought to how we represent our members and the wider beekeeping industry too.”

Venues are Whangarei, Paengaroa, Palmerston North, Nelson, Christchurch and Gore.

A number of issues of importance to beekeepers, some specific to each location, will also be discussed, with expert speakers planned.

“These meetings are open to everybody and open to all viewpoints. I would really like to know what people are thinking and why they are thinking it,” Lorimer says.

A BOP Regular

For the past two years Bay of Plenty honey facility Mānuka Orchard have welcomed beekeepers to Paengaroa for an informative Open Day and owner Logan Bowyer says they are looking forward to doing so again, with a date in July still to be confirmed. In the past the event has drawn about 50 beekeepers and industry suppliers, with a trade display and speakers presenting to a range of practical beekeeping topics. Bowyer says that is the model they will follow this year, while also updating beekeepers on the advancements made at Mānuka Orchard.

In the South

While the major beekeeping events look set to be dominated by North Island locations, in the south there will be NZBI’s three Discussion Days, plus the Canterbury Hub of ApiNZ have their oft-held Beekeepers’ Day Out scheduled for June 26 in Ashburton. In years where the main ApiNZ conference is held in the North Island, the Canterbury Hub has taken to hosting a South Island mini-conference. Lincoln University has been the venue for a trade display and expert speakers several years previous. This winter, that format is likely to remain, but with the event moving an hour’s drive south.



And the rest

Then there is the smaller, and more frequent, meetings held by local beekeeping groups. So, while there wont be as large a single of cluster of beekeepers anywhere this winter, there is still plenty of events on the calendar.


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