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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

First Time's a Charm


The Rotorua Honey Bee Club doesn’t know what type of honey it is, but they know it’s a winner.

On home turf, the first-time entrants scooped the national award for the top honey produced by a bee club or association at the Apiculture New Zealand National Honey Awards. Club president Kim Poynter was on had to receive the trophy, announced by renowned honey judge Maureen Conquer and presented by Kevin Powell, of awards sponsor Kiwi Labels.

Club member Wendy Pickett, who has nine hives in the Taupo area and has been with the club since 2017, was the producer of the award-winning honey. The club president broke the news to her via phone following the ceremony.

“She was absolutely stoked. It’s very exciting for her and the club,” Poynter says.

While Pickett did get a pollen count on the honey, she has since misplaced the result. So, the exact makeup of the batch is unknown.

“She doesn’t know what it is … a Taupo multifloral! It tasted really good, it’s lovely and clear, on the dark end of the medium spectrum,” Poynter described.

Entry criteria in the club category is wide and not limited to any particular colour or consistency, such as other categories in the competition.

Wendy Pickett and the Rotorua Honey Bee Club’s award-winning honey and prize haul.

The prize is apt recognition for a club that has built a strong membership since establishing in 2010. They have between 120 and 140 “family” memberships, so represent about 200 beekeepers spread over a large area which includes Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga, Otorohanga and Ohope.

Kim Poynter, president of the Rotorua Honey Bee Club, accepts the award for the best honey submitted by a club at the National Honey Awards, with Kevin Powell of sponsor Kiwi Labels making the presentation.

“Our club’s objective has always been to promote local support, knowledge and education for responsible beekeeping practice,” Poynter says.

“Knowledge will create a community where we have good responsible beekeeping.”

The club’s decision to hold a local honey competition and then progress the winner to the national awards was not about putting their name in lights, but extending the club’s mantra of support and education.

Fiona O’Brien, an Otorohanga beekeeper of considerable honey show experience, acted as the club’s expert.

“She spoke to our monthly gathering about the fact that this competition even existed and about presentation of honey, the finer points on how it needed to be presented for competition. The following month we had our club ‘Give it a Go’ competition where people were encouraged to bring in their honey.”

The club provided jars for members to use when submitting honey, with Pickett’s winning out and getting the opportunity to advance to the national awards.

“Wendy was inspired by the talk about giving it a go and she presented a beautiful honey. This is the first time she has entered a competition.”

While Poynter got to proudly collect the club’s award, it was not her only trip to the stage during the ceremony. She walked away with a literal box-load of awards for her personal Bush Haven Farm Honey submissions, plus the award for the gift basket category.

“I’m a hobbyist, so to be able to go up against the big boys, it was pretty exciting to get some awards,” the keeper of about 50 hives says.

“Hobbyists sometimes feel like we are not flash enough, not good enough to put our honeys up against the commercials and packers. So, it was marvellous to be able to provide that opportunity.”

She also wanted to recognise sponsor Kiwi Labels, who made available gold, silver and bronze stickers for award winning honey producers to apply to their labels.

The Rotorua club will continue to provide opportunities to beekeepers in the area, with regular Sunday afternoon gatherings which include speakers and practical demonstrations, a bi-monthly newsletter and even plans to hold a two-day conference in April next year.

While all of those things take work, Poynter says they are worthwhile exercises and the honey competition is an example of that, but not because it resulted in a national award.

“There is a bit of work for the club in first preparing the education on how to present, then running the honey comp. It’s a bit of effort, but I think it is a great way for people to learn how to best present and prepare their honey, not just competition, but for wherever it is going.”

The Rotorua Honey Bee Club welcomes new members, with club details available via



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