The Big Move
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Given only a matter of weeks to move their hives and with it their club headquarters, the Auckland Beekeepers Club (ABC) were left scrambling. The call went out, ‘who will home us?’. Well, they look to have landed on their feet and their hives now might just have the smoothest footing of any in the country…
Auckland’s housing “crises” almost left the region’s biggest beekeeping club homeless too, with the ABC’s former homebase at the Unitech campus in Mt Albert now on its way to becoming a housing development. That saw the club given its marching orders in May last year.
“We knew Unitec had been selected as a Shovel Ready Project, but I expected it was going to be several years before development would actually get down to us at the very back of the site,” club president Steve Leslie says.
“One of the clauses was they had to have started some kind of work by May last year though. So, we suddenly got a letter from Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, saying that they had to start some work.”
Withing a few weeks the hives and their occupants had landed at foster homes – various club member’s backyards. That was a temporary solution though and they also needed to find a base for the club’s assortment of equipment. Monthly club gatherings had also to be catered for, and pre-Covid they could draw about 100 members. Therefore, the search was on and a call was put out to members to try to find a suitable location.
That location obviously needed to be bee-friendly, centrally located (as the club’s membership numbers in the hundreds and from all over Auckland), provide easy access and vehicle parking, plus have some longevity associated so the hassle of a move would not have to be soon replicated. With Auckland land prices soaring, spare square-meters are at a premium and so the ABC’s solution would certainly not be as easy as ‘ABC’.
It was the president himself who would eventually uncover what has become their new home, hopefully for the long term. Good old-fashioned social-networking and involvement in community groups meant Leslie was made aware of a site at the new Gribblehirst Community Hub, which was formerly the home of a bowling club. As a bonus – and perhaps it could be considered a finders-fee for the president? – it’s very handy to Leslie.
“Just five minutes down the road from where I live in Sandringham, in fairly-well central Auckland.”
A two-story building and kitchen is now providing a decent space for gatherings, although most club days take place outside. There is some storage, but an extra 20foot shipping container is likely to be brought in to house club equipment.
The hives have been on site since January and they are as happy as their human keepers with their new digs.
“Because it was a bowling club for many years the green area was often flooded and had chemicals applied. Without considerable remediation of soil and surface, there's very little that the old bowling grounds can be used for. But they're perfect for positioning hives, and in the middle of a park with good mature trees, there's open spaces,” Leslie explains.
The Aucklander has a few tips for fellow beekeeping clubs to try and make upheaval, such as relocating a club, more manageable. First, have some money in the bank for just such an occasion. While moving of hives comes cheap, there are other miscellaneous costs (such as a new storage container) which can prove expensive. Secondly, always keep an eye out and ear to the ground for potential sites in your club’s area, as you never know when they might be needed. Third, don’t be afraid to embrace the “green credentials” that a beekeeping club can offer.
“We've been getting some good support from Auckland Council,” Leslie explains.
“They want to improve their environmental credentials, as that is one of the deliverables and objectives that have been set down – good green engagements and initiatives. Beehives and beekeeping ticks that box very well.”
It’s been “so far so good” at the new site and the hope is Gribblehirst Park will be the ABC’s home for good. However, they are still on trial, with that period to wrap up around September. “We've just got to keep our noses really clean until then,” Leslie says.