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Uncertain future for Auckland beekeeping

DELWYN DICKEY
Last updated 15:14 18/07/2014
Bee
URBAN BEES: Beekeepers across Auckland are concerned their hives could be under threat.
Jenny Price
David White/Fairfax NZ
BAD BEE-HAVIOUR: Kumeu lifestyler Jenny Price has had trouble with her neighbour’s bees. The situation spurred her partner Pete Sinton to make a submission to Auckland Unitary Plan which could have Auckland-wide consequences for beekeepers.
Peta McClure
PETA McCLURE: Bees on the Kumeu orchardist’s property have been causing problems for her neighbours.

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An argument between neighbours over bee hives kept on an orchard in Kumeu now has Auckland hobby beekeepers worried they could soon need a resource consent to keep their hives on their own property.

Or even worse, hives could be banned in urban and country living areas altogether.

A submission under the Auckland Unitary Plan has been made by Kumeu/Huapai Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Pete Sinton as agent for his partner Jenny Price's Kumeu company.

Sinton and Price have been in dispute with their orchardist neighbour Peta McClure over hives being kept in the orchard.

The waxy excrement left by the bees on their flight path has been cited by them as a serious nuisance.

This has led to the police being called and legal action taken.

Beekeeping is a popular hobby for many in Auckland and it's not unusual to see a bee hive tucked away in gardens around the city. 

There's hives kept on top of the Auckland Town Hall with the honey from them being presented to visiting dignitaries.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe's family keeps them at their Herne Bay property.

But beekeepers across Auckland are now heading for their keyboards before the July 22 5pm deadline for all 'further submissions'.

These can address submissions already made under the Auckland Unitary Plan.

''The submission could see restrictions, and possibly resource consents, needed for beekeepers in urban areas,''  Auckland Beekeepers Club member Gary Fawcett said.

The club has around 400 members and most would be affected should the submission be successful, he said. Back garden beekeepers make up the majority of beekeepers nationally and are important for biodiversity. 

''It's ridiculous. It's basically trying to ban urban beekeeping,'' he said.

''Bees are very important in urban areas for biodiversity, pollinating vegetable and flower gardens, fruit trees and native trees and grasses,'' he said.

''Bees are endangered internationally and do very well in urban areas compared to rural areas where they come into contact with a lot of agricultural pesticides.''

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''Should beehives be excluded from urban areas, the big picture could be grim,''  Auckland bee blogger Margaret Groot said. 

''Naturally swarming bees in urban areas would likely be seen as pests and removed leaving pollination in urban areas seriously compromised,'' she said.

The National Beekeeping Association is also concerned. 

''There have been previous attempts to license urban apiaries in urban areas by Rodney and Franklin Councils prior to the Supercity, but they failed,'' New Zealand Bee Keeping Association spokesman Don MacLeod said.

Bees have free range across all major New Zealand cities, with no resource consents needed to keep bees on urban private property in any of the centres the Rodney Times contacted, including Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Tauranga. 

Most city councils worked on the complaint basis for beekeeping, where an environment officer would be sent out if there was a complaint made to try and find a solution.

This usually involved moving hives to another spot on the property.

Tauranga has a bylaw that could be enforced if necessary.

BEE DISPUTE

Jenny Price and Pete Sinton wrote to their neighbour last year regarding the bee excrement from bee hives.

"They have caused us no end of annoyance as we have to garage our cars all the time. If we leave them outside, your bees cover our cars in excrement..."

"Our house has it on the east side. Our barbecue tables are covered in it, plus any cushions we place on the seats. We don't put the washing on the line as all our clothes get covered in the excrement also."

Price says the offending material ''sets like a wax, so it's terribly hard to get off.

"It's all right when it's wet, because you can get a hose. But you never know when they're going to strike next.''

- Rodney Times

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