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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

Club Catch-Up: Locked-down, But Not Out


As Auckland moves towards three months of lockdown at level 3 or above, we check in with two of the biggest beekeeping clubs in the region to find out how they are navigating the restrictions on their usual gatherings.

Apiarist’s Advocate checked in with Auckland Beekeepers Club president Steve Leslie in May last year when Auckland first got hit with Covid-lockdowns and he was pleased to report some success in their work arounds – namely webinars to facilitate online gatherings. Webinars have again been the order of the day for the club, but having to try and organising relocation of their club hives has also been hampered by Covid constraints.

“This lockdown has seen us sort of repeat what we did last year, with our September and October monthly club meetings carried out via webinar and it has worked really well,” Leslie says.

Over 100 people, of their club of nearly 700, have tuned in to the live webinars, which are recorded and sent to others for delayed viewing.

Word of the webinars is out too and they have gone global, with one viewer tuning in from Spain in the middle of their night.

While the past 18 months has the club well prepared for adapting to lockdowns with their meetings, the curveball of having to relocate the club’s hives from their long-time home at Unitech campus in Mt Albert could have been better timed.

The Government has decided that the large greenspace at Unitech will be adequate for up to 4000 new houses and apartments and so the Auckland club’s apiary has been relocated to members back yards for now. They hope to have a new apiary location lined up at a nearby park, but the Council is yet to confirm it.

Auckland Beekeepers Club member Ken Brown interviews Massey University’s Dr Heather Hendrickson as part of a webinar used in the place of the usual monthly in-person gatherings held by the club.

“Unfortunately the team that make assessments on use of Council facilities, and will be looking at our application, are also the team that have had to go through all the popup vaccination and testing centres. So, we have an application in, its looking OK, but we are still waiting,” Leslie says.

Down the road at the Franklin Beekeepers Club the main mode of communication with members for the past two months has been through the club email newsletter and Facebook.

“Face to face I would much prefer. We have missed two monthly meetings and it looks like we will miss a third in November,” club president Prakash Naidoo says.

With the Franklin club’s numbers swelled by an influx of people new to beekeeping over the past year, the timing of the lockdown in spring is limiting the club’s ability to educate.

“I think everyone is using their own information sources, such as Youtube. We haven’t got much feedback from new members and, because we haven’t been meeting, perhaps we just haven’t had the chance to hear what is happening out there,” Naidoo says.

Recently one of the club “hive masters” worked the club hives and made splits, which was videoed and uploaded to the internet for members to watch.

With both club’s next monthly meetings and field-days on the calendar for mid-November, they will be hoping the region can “level-down” in time. While modern work arounds are a necessary substitute for in-person gatherings at present, Naidoo, a retired school principal, admits, “we are losing momentum in terms of education and learning”.

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