While fellow industry body New Zealand Beekeeping Inc report back on encouraging first meetings with the new government, Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) are staying stum on any dialogue they may have had with the Agriculture Minister – but there could be big news to come in the new year.
Both ApiNZ chair Nathan Guy and chief executive Karin Kos are keeping their powder dry, each offering a “no comment”, but promising more later in January. Guy, who is also chair of the Meat Industry Association, will almost certainly have met with members of the new National-led government, considering he spent 15 years in parliament with the National Party, including a term as Minister for Primary industries.
With ApiNZ having stated in recent months that their current voluntary membership model is financially unsustainable, there is speculation around the industry as to what they might have planned to fill the coffers moving forward. Silence on their dealings with the incoming government tips that, whatever they are working on, they are working on it having government backing.
ApiNZ led a bid to implement a honey producers’ levy in 2018-19, but that was roundly voted down by beekeepers. Ever since, ApiNZ’s appetite to launch another levy bid has been, at least publicly, little. They are likely to have been pondering new tactics, with murmurings of potential mergers with other industry groups, or less comprehensive and more targeted levies.
There might be an ace up the industry’s sleeve though, with now Minister for Agriculture Todd McClay using the platform of ApiNZ’s national conference in Rotorua in June 2023 to promise $3 million “to expand New Zealand honey into markets internationally, by removing barriers to our honey marketers”, should his party gain office. Following 2023’s election, McClay is now not only the Minister for Ag, but also the Minister for Trade, putting him in a strong position to fulfil his promise to apiculture.
ApiNZ has also been sitting on the release of their industry research project ‘Securing a Resilient and Sustainable Future: Strategic Planning for the Sustainable Growth of the Honey Sector’ which was taxpayer funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Future Fund, as well as contributions from project partners ApiNZ, the Honey Industry Trust, Comvita and Mānuka Health. The project began in March 2022 with a stated length of 14 months. Now, almost 22 months later, no results have been presented. Beekeepers had their say as part of the groundwork with a roadshow of meetings and zoom calls which sought beekeeper opinion on the state of the industry in 2022, but all through 2023 the project partners have not publicly presented results.
The release of that report could be used to shape a new funding model for ApiNZ, but with it so long overdue, and funded at least in part by honey packing companies, its relevance and impartiality to the average beekeeper could be called into question.