• Patrick Dawkins

Countdown to Conference

Following a year of Covid-caused cancellation, the Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) National Conference and Trade Exhibition is set to return this June 24-26 in Rotorua, with around 1000 delegates expected to attend. The Rotorua Energy Events Centre will hum with beekeepers, drawn by a range of speakers, workshops, awards, trade exhibits and social events.

ApiNZ chief executive Karin Kos is looking forward to hosting the apiculture industry’s showpiece event for the year, summarising the situation simply, “the industry needs to get together every year and when they don’t, we miss it.”

Not only was the 2020 ApiNZ conference missed due to cancellation, Covid concerns and lockdowns also saw fellow industry body New Zealand Beekeeping Inc forced to can a conference scheduled for last August in Taupo, while numerous other would-be gatherings have been disrupted or moved online in the past year.

ApiNZ was able to transfer their 2020 booking at the Events Centre in Rotorua over to 2021. Consequently, plans for a Christchurch conference this year were pushed back until 2022.

The Trade Exhibition at ApiNZ’s national beekeeping conference is always a focal point for attendees.

While there is always potential for national Covid alert levels to change – and at Alert Level 2 or above the conference would proceed “virtually” online, but not in person – for now it’s full steam ahead for June 24-26 in Rotorua.

The headline speakers at this year’s event have a North American flavour, with two from Canada and two from the USA presenting on a range of subjects – but all via video-link. In a sign of the times, the international speakers will pre-record a presentation to be played, and then answer audience questions via live video.

So, with its reduced travel burden, in time, health and financially, is this method of presenting to the conference the way of the future?

“No” Kos is quick to say.

“You can’t beat face-to-face and ideally we would have international speakers on the ground.

“There’s nothing wrong with what we are doing this year. It’s absolutely the right thing to do, but normally people get up and speak to them in the breaks, they socialise at the dinners with beekeepers. It’s a good opportunity to chat with these really incredible, knowledgeable people.”

That knowledge will be transferred via the big screen in the main conference hall, with the speakers each having their own areas of expertise, but falling under the conference’s theme of “Healthy Bees, Healthy Industry, Healthy Future”.

From Alberta, Canada,

Dr Shelley Hoover will present, via video-link, on the impact of climate change on plant-pollinator relationships.

will present on the impact of climate change on plant-pollinator relationships, plus Patricia Wolf Veiga will discuss her work assessing imported and domestic queen bees in Canada, and how New Zealand’s queens stack up.

From the USA, high-profile Californian beekeeper and applied honey researcher Randy Oliver will present his latest findings, while University of Maryland’s Dr Dennis vanEngelsdorp has speaking slots on day one and three of the conference, where he will dive into the habits of varroa mite and its management.

Those international speakers will be joined by a range of local experts from the apiculture industry who will present through a range of speaking slots, panel discussions and workshops. Also included will be someone from outside the apiculture industry, mental health advocate and motivational speaker Dr Tom Mulholland who will offer advice to beekeepers to “get the buzz back into their life”.

Some attendees will also gain a buzz when a range of competitions, including the national honey awards, are decided and awards presented.

honey judging
The National Honey Awards will be decided in Rotorua, with judges taste-testing honey from all around New Zealand.

A highlight for many beekeepers attending will be the trade show in the main hall, which will include more than 50 exhibitors of beekeeping equipment and services.

The gathering of around 1000 beekeepers and those associated with the industry is the logical time for updates to be given by the American Foulbrood Pest Management Agency, as well as for ApiNZ to host their AGM.

For the hosts, ApiNZ, the national conference also acts as an opportunity to showcase their work and to interact with beekeepers, members or not.

“It’s a really good opportunity for ApiNZ to say ‘hey, this is what we do for the industry’ and I think conference is a genuine industry-good activity. We obviously have an AGM, we’ve got board members that speak, and we say ‘these are the issues that are important to our industry and ApiNZ is prepared to front them’,” Kos says.

While the conference is unlikely to draw in attendees like it did when New Zealand honey prices and the industry was booming four or five years ago, registrations, a month out, are on a par with the last conference, Kos says. That was also in Rotorua, in 2019.

While ApiNZ is looking forward to finally hosting beekeepers, there’s a lot of work that goes into putting on a three-day event that will be of value, with many of those involved doing so on a voluntary basis, Kos says.

“I don’t think you could overestimate the work that goes into planning an event like this – its huge, the voluntary work that we do, from the organising committee and board members, is massive.”

More information on the Apiculture New Zealand Conference and Trade Exhibition, including a full programme and registration forms, are available at www.apicultureconference2021.co.nz


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