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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

The Guy for the Job

Nathan Guy, a former Minister for Primary Industries, spent 12 years working in the country’s largest ‘beehive’ and now he will attempt to improve the lot of those working their own hives. The former politician will take over as independent Chair of Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) this July aware of the challenges faced by the industry, plenty to learn, but also the connections, knowledge and skills to help try and build a sustainable future for apiculture in New Zealand.

It's been two years since Guy has graced the House of Parliament, having spent 12 years as a National Party MP, Minister of various portfolios and four term member for the Otaki electorate. The Levin dairy farmer hasn’t been sitting idle though, instead undertaking a major capital project on farm – installing a state-of-the-art twin-rotary cow shed – while also taking up roles on the board of both the Horowhenua-Kapiti Rugby Union and the Hurricanes.

Levin dairy farmer and former Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy will soon step into the role of independent Chair of Apiculture New Zealand.

The role of ApiNZ independent Chair is being vacated by Bruce Wills who has held the position since formation of the industry body in 2016. It will bring fresh challenges for Guy, but he is not without connection to the beekeeping industry.

“I did a beekeeping paper in 1994 at Massey University, as part of a Diploma in Rural Studies,” Guy says, somewhat facetiously, to lead off his credentials.

Much more likely to be called upon are his experiences in the offices of Wellington. Guy was Minister for Primary Industries between 2013 and 2017, under Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English. That coincided with the formation of ApiNZ, as well as lead up work to the proposed honey levy, which was ultimately voted down by beekeepers in 2019. He also saw close up the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) build-up to the eventual export manuka honey standard.

“I had a lot of interaction with the apiculture industry as Minister for Primary Industries. That was when there were two entities and we tried to bring them together. I’m very supportive of ApiNZ to try and bring everyone together to have one voice. ApiNZ has built credibility over the last few years and will continue to do so,” Guy says.

“I will be working for the whole industry and not just for members. My job will be trying to gain a consensus and that will mean listening to all the different points of view. I understand markets and have led many trade delegations around the world. So, I know the importance of getting product into markets and some of those challenges. I understand and know biosecurity extremely well.”

Guy worked on the introduction of “GIAs”, Government Industry Agreements, during his term in parliament. ApiNZ is not a signatory to the agreement, which aims to improve biosecurity readiness and response outcomes by having industry groups and MPI working together.

As well as time on his dairy farm, incoming ApiNZ independent Chair Nathan Guy advises the Hurricanes rugby board.

“ApiNZ are still working through that and the big constraint there is having a pool of funding to match government. Biosecurity is going to continue to be a big issue for the industry,” the new Chair says.

Wills is comfortable handing the role of Board Chair to Guy and reinforces his credentials, especially in those key areas of biosecurity and trade.

“Nathan’s commitment to New Zealand’s primary sector, his understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the apiculture sector, and his ability to connect with key stakeholders, here in New Zealand and abroad, will be welcomed by the industry,” Wills says.

“Nathan’s time as Minister has also seen him gain specific experience and knowledge of key areas including biosecurity and honey regulations, as well as experience of international markets and consumers.”

Bruce Wills, vacating the independent Chair role for ApiNZ after six years.

The ApiNZ Board can have up to nine members and is headed by the Chair, appointed by the Board. Currently four Board positions are up for election, with member voting set to conclude on June 10. Guy’s position as independent Chair is initially for a three-year term, although a second term is possible.

With Labour in government and Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor holding the Ministry Guy once did, he will be dealing with a former sparring partner from across the House. Soon after the announcement of his appointment, Guy says he received a message of congratulations from O’Connor and that they have a “strong working relationship”.

“Even though we used to wear different colours. There is a mutual respect for each other’s connections and knowledge.”

Guy says he goes into the ApiNZ role with his eyes and ears open wide, confident he can help move the industry towards its goals.

“I’d like to think I’m at the starting line with quite a bit of history and credibility behind me, but I don’t know everything. I am going into this job with some background knowledge, but still much to learn. Part of my role will be listening and engaging. I’ve always focused on the fact – even when I had a top job in Wellington – that you have to get out and listen to people. That is part of what I will be doing.”


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