Housing plan could upset bee breeding

Last updated 10:08 26/02/2014
Murray Bush
Derek Flynn

Life changes, things move on, we understand that, but we need something that sets in place, that enables us to retain our business. Murray Bush J Bush & Sons co-owner

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Housing development threatens the future of a unique bee-breeding programme that could be the solution to the varroa mite, a Blenheim beekeeper says.

J Bush & Sons co-owner Murray Bush said the 96-year-old company started by his grandfather had operated its honey business in Old Renwick Rd since 1926.

As well as the honey and wax sales, the company operated its honey extraction and production business there, and housed 70 hives which were used for a breeding programme which it hoped would breed a bee that was not susceptible to the varroa mite.

This parasitic mite, introduced into New Zealand in the late 1990s, weakens bees, causing hives to collapse, and has caused a massive decline in wild bee populations since the mite arrived in Marlborough in 2006.

J Bush & Sons was in a unique position with a breeding population of bees relatively isolated from other bees at its Old Renwick Rd site, and it had bred a unique genetic strain that was, after just eight years of research, showing a 30 per cent improvement in varroa resistance, Mr Bush said.

"That's almost as good as the scientific base in Ruakura."

A planning panel of independent chairman John Maassen and councillors David Oddie and Laressa Shenfield is considering seven plan changes for the Marlborough District Council that would change seven areas of land to the north and northwest of Blenheim from rural 2 to residential. Yesterday was the second day of a three-day hearing.

Mr Bush told the planning panel that his company was concerned the plan changes affecting the areas of PC 65 and 67 which J Bush & Sons own would have a major detrimental effect on the business, particularly its hives.

The honey business could survive having housing as neighbours, but it would be impossible to have the hives so close to housing, he said.

The company would have "existing use rights" but that did not give them security, Mr Bush said. Instead, it opposed the zone change to residential. If that had to happen, then a minimum condition for the company would be to have its existing use rights - including keeping 70 hives for breeding purposes - to be specifically written into the District Plan.

"We feel that after 96 years we deserve some protection.

"Life changes, things move on, we understand that, but we need something that sets in place, that enables us to retain our business."

The housing development might not happen for another 20 years, Mr Bush said, but that was not long in his business's life. He had just bought a $500,000 machine with a life of 30 years.

"From our point of view, we have been operating for 96 years, and another 20 years is nothing . . . We have invested a lot of time and capital into our business, and this needs to be protected for our future generations and for the health and stability of the bees."

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- The Marlborough Express


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