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Two months on from Cyclone Gabrielle having its way with the east coast of the North Island, Beekeepers Hawke’s Bay have held their first post-cyclone meeting, a gathering describe as a “very sombre” affair.
While the turnout of around 20 people on April 6 was only about half of pre-cyclone meetings, the impact of Gabrielle was detailed by those present.
“You felt like crying at some of the stories,” says club president Graham Heaven.
“Some of the members are home-grown beekeepers with only a half dozen hives and they have had then wiped out completely. Yes, it was a sombre meeting.”
One member even had their house destroyed and is living in a caravan.
Heaven says the club has been heartened by an offer from Wanganui Beekeepers Club to supply some nuc colonies in spring to get club members started up again, but he expects many will decide the investment in hive equipment is simply not worth it to pursue their hobby again.
A club email to float the idea of a combined equipment order to help members start again was met with no replies.
Difficulty accessing the venue for the meeting may have contributed to the lower-than-usual turnout too, with the regular club venue of Pakowhai Community Hall in use as a civil defence base the gathering was moved up the road to an Eastern Institute of Technology training room in Napier. The club has not only seen disruption to their meeting place, but the Beekeepers Hawke’s Bay honey extraction facility in Bay View, north of Napier, also had flood waters pass through. The damage to equipment was minimal, but silt left behind took around a dozen members three hours to remove.
For commercial operators who have suffered losses, gaining insurance or government relief funding is proving challenging the club president reports. The Ministry for Primary Industries has made available $250,000 for beekeepers, but restrictions on what that money can be used for has limited some applications. In several cases insurance is not paying out either.
“A lot of people are in limbo while trying to claim insurance. If hives are off their property, such as for pollination, and the insurance company hasn’t been notified of the move, then it looks as if there will be no insurance,” Heaven says.
He is aware of pay-outs that have been made, but that was for equipment stored on site.
“To make matters worse, some hives didn’t actually get flooded out, but so much rain has fallen – our wettest year on record – it has made for no feed for the bees and starved hives. Sugar syrup was hard to get at one point as Farmlands had two containers’ worth contaminated.”
On top of those cyclone issues are a “non-existent mānuka honey season”, the constant threat of varroa, and honey prices putting the pinch on beekeepers. That seems enough to bring a sombre mood to any beekeeper.