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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

Honey, We Need to Listen

With June shaping as a key month in the discourse surrounding the New Zealand Honey Strategy 2024-30, with authors Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) and the Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) hosting an Industry Summit Day on June 18 to discuss it, and various New Zealand Beekeeping Inc Discussion Days continuing around the country, we thought it pertinent to highlight some research into the industry from just three years ago.

Kathryn Reid is a 2021 Kellogg Scholar who is not an industry stakeholder, which she believes makes her ideally placed to research the honey industry with an independent, impartial eye, and ear. The industry is tasked with increasing export earnings and Kathryn’s Kellogg report undertakes to determine whether the industry is set up to achieve this – amid significant industry challenges.

Running to 34 pages, Kathryn Reid’s 2021 assessment of the need for change in the New Zealand honey industry and how to go about it is s till pertinent reading in 2024.

Based in Drury, South Auckland, Reid has a background as a marketing consultant and bachelors degrees in commerce, majoring in marketing, and in physical education. She grew up on a Waikato dairy farm, where bees were kept. Despite the loose connection to the honey industry, she is passionate about making a difference in the rural sector, taking inspiration from her grandmother Gladys Reid who earned an OBE in 1983 for pioneering the use of zinc to treat facial eczema in cattle.

The Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme has been running in New Zealand since 1979, developing leaders for New Zealand's rural and agri-food sector. It is a six month training course which includes 18 days of programme content and culminates with participants presenting a research project designed to deliver leadership outcomes.

Reid’s report, Honey, we need to -talk- listen suggests a plan of action for meeting the immediate requirements and future expectations of the New Zealand honey industry. Fifty-seven New Zealand honey industry members were consulted regarding what was working and not working in the industry.

Key Findings

While a link to the full report is available at the end of this story, the key findings are as follows.

New Zealand relies on bees to pollinate crops and pasture worth at least $5 billion annually to its economy. In 2019/20, honey export value reached $425 million. In July 2020, the Government released its Fit for a better world vision. While it did not separate the impact on the New Zealand honey industry individually, the numbers infer the industry is being tasked to add $65 million in export earnings cumulatively over the next 10 years.

This task falls to the 935 export registered beekeepers (about 10% of total registered beekeepers) to supply mānuka and/or non-mānuka honey for export. The report found that the New Zealand honey industry needs to change if it is to achieve this task.

Of the 57 industry members asked via survey about what is working and not working in the industry, over half indicated they wanted change across five of the following six areas.

  1. Sustainable livelihood: 54% want industry change to provide them with a sustainable living comparable with other New Zealanders.

  2. Industry structure: 77% want industry change to better serve them by uniting them and giving them one voice to influence regulators and enforce rules.

  3. Effective communication: 58% want industry change to help them be informed, gain trust and feel engaged in the industry.

  4. Good leadership: 61% want industry change to set a culture, protect its people and pull them into the future.

  5. Clear vision: 84% want industry change to provide a sense of purpose and direction for the industry, help define short and long-term goals, and guide decisions along the way.

  6. Self-fulfilment: 19% want industry change to satisfy their feelings of fulfilment equal with other New Zealanders.

The report identified planned change management as key to creating these changes and recommended a two-phase plan of action:

The intake of scholars on the 43 edition on the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme, in 2021, gather at Lincoln University, with Kathryn Reid seated third from right.

Phase 1: What does the industry need to change?

This is about finding all industry members and capturing their voice for change following a three-step process, which looks like this:

  1. Developing a national database.

  2. Creating a national communication campaign.

  3. Sending out a national survey.

Phase 2: How does the industry change?

This is about listening to all industry member’s responses and guiding them through change by following Kotter’s proven eight-step process of leading change, which looks like this:

  1. Creating a sense of urgency.

  2. Forming a powerful coalition.

  3. Developing the change vision.

  4. Communicating the vision.

  5. Empowering industry members to act.

  6. Creating quick wins.

  7. Building on the change.

  8. Anchoring the change into industry culture.

According to Moore’s adaptation of the Law of Diffusion of Innovations, this plan can work if 15%-18% of industry members commit to creating change in the industry.

Certain aspects which the report suggests can be seen to have been taken up in the approach by ApiNZ and UMFHA through the ongoing Honey Strategy.

You can download and read the full report here:  


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