Strength in Numbers Sought
Apiculture needs greater industry representation if it is to progress and push for change for the better, believes the chief executive of the largest industry body, Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ). It’s been a busy period representing beekeeper interests through issues of Covid-19 and lockdowns, trying to limit ongoing costs of compliance and bureaucracy, as well as industry access, says Karin Kos who took the opportunity to speak to Apiarist’s Advocate to stress the importance of their work and appeal for greater support from beekeepers.
“A lot of beekeepers are not a member of any industry organisation and that is a problem for our industry,” Kos explains.
“We have the wine industry present at our national conference, we have the avocado industry present, and, yes, success has come from their strong industry representation. If we want change to lift our ability to be effective – and I do think we are effective for the small, largely voluntary, organisation that we are – then having a unified voice, having funding to do the research, to really push for change, is the only way forward.”
ApiNZ is not the only industry body available to beekeepers, there are the likes of New Zealand Beekeeping Incorporated, which draw in members from across New Zealand, as well as more localised groups such as Southern North Island Beekeeping Group. ApiNZ is the largest though, claiming to represent about 2500 beekeepers, many of which fall under the membership of their local clubs aligned to ApiNZ.
At last count New Zealand had 9891 registered beekeepers, a mix of hobbyist and commercial.
Currently Kos is ApiNZ’s sole full-time employee, joined by three others in part-time roles. Focus groups rely on members volunteering their time. A board of eight, led by independent chair Bruce Wills, meets bi-monthly to oversee operations at ApiNZ.
Among ApiNZ members present at their AGM in Rotorua last June there was a sentiment that they, through their financial support of the industry group, were providing the resources for a lot of industry good which other beekeepers were “freeloading” off.
While the nature of their role as an “industry good” group means beekeepers far and wide see the benefit of their work, ApiNZ do need broad support to be most effective, the chief executive says.
“As we have got better at articulating what we do and why we are doing it, and as we have become entrenched in dealings with government – to the point where they now approach us on issues – we now get a lot of non-members who ring up wanting support and services. They are not always willing to support the work though. That is an issue, because we have a core, committed group of members, who we are thankful for their ongoing support.”
Lately dealings with government departments have often centred around ensuring the industry is included on any fast-moving rules and laws around Covid-19 and New Zealand’s response.
“We are around the table and they know to think about beekeepers. That goes to the heart of why you need industry representation,” Kos says.
The benefits the industry body’s work provides beekeepers can be split into two categories she believes. First, the more tangible advantages like access to information or discounts and savings, then there is the work which goes on behind the scenes, such as that with Government departments, submissions and consultation on behalf of the industry and the work of their voluntary focus groups on specific areas of importance to apiculture.
“If there is anything that matters to our industry, we will be there with really good submissions,” Kos says.
Currently ApiNZ have a submission to the Ministry for Primary Industries on proposed changes to cost recovery in the food system, which could see the Export Bee Levy rise from $1005.70 a year to $2443 and the per-hour rate for verification go from $176 to $230.50.
“MPI should manage its costs more prudently and act in a consistent and transparent way that does not add sudden costs,” the ApiNZ submission states as part of their rejection of the sudden heaping of extra compliance costs on beekeepers.
Among the successes in which ApiNZ has played a key role in the past year which Kos lists are: getting Auckland City Council to reconsider a rule which would have limited beehives to one brood box, increasing the export honey parcel limit from 2kg to 12, and the move from twice-yearly to only annual RMP audits for some honey facilities.
ApiNZ member benefits also include access to regular correspondence and information through the NZ Beekeeper Journal, weekly emails from the chief executive and quarterly honey market reports. A Bee Smart Toolkit is also available, which provides templates around the likes of health and safety protocols and landowner agreements. Members can also receive discounts to the ApiNZ national conference and at several honey testing facilities.
“Those are the bread-and-butter things, important value adds, which members get access to and can provide savings,” Kos says.
It is ApiNZ’s wider body of work where they hope to add the greatest value though, and therefore want to appeal to more beekeepers for their support through membership.
“Good communication is important, and that’s my background, but we could do so much more with some good funding behind the industry,” Kos says.
ApiNZ National Conference & Trade Show Update
ApiNZ are hopeful for a full gathering of delegates at their National Conference in Christchurch, June 30 to July 1, but organisers are working on a contingency plan too.
Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions are a looming threat, meaning the plan A of an in-person gathering at the brand-new Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre could be curtailed. If the country is at traffic light levels green or orange, an in-person conference will take place. However, if the whole country, or a particular region, remains at the red light level a virtual conference will take place.
“We will be doing all we can to keep planning a fully attended conference at the fabulous new convention centre in Christchurch. However, we know we need a contingency,” Kos says.
Should the red traffic light setting or any other force majeure causes the in-person event to be cancelled, those registered will be eligible for a full refund, or to transfer their registration to the following year.