Town buzzing with beekeepers

Beekeepers (from left) David Penrose, Bob Blair (obscured), Ian Berry and Kevin Ecroyd at the National Beekeepers’ Association annual conference on Sunday.
Photo Joseph Johnson

Beekeepers from far and wide celebrated their centennial year at the annual conference on Sunday, welcoming New Zealand funny man Te Radar as guest speaker.

The conference, held at Hotel Ashburton, attracted more than 140 members of the National Beekeepers’ Association – putting the hotel at capacity for the week and bringing together the nation’s enthusiasts.

The conference, which alternates between islands every year, will run through the week covering a range of seminars, workshops and trade stalls, as well as an official dinner, held on Sunday night.

Association executive member Roger Bray, of Ashburton, believes the industry is in good heart and says the basics of beekeeping have remained “alive and well” since his introduction in 1965.

“The technology has changed, the marketing has changed … sure, but everything I learnt when I first started out has remained the same and very much applies in our industry today,” Mr Bray said.

“That’s really great, not many industries can say that and I feel that for the majority of big issues that arise, as an association we work hard to protect the bees and have worked tirelessly to hold imported diseases out of our country.

“It can be a full-on industry sometimes, but we all do this job because we love to do it and when it comes down to it we all have the bees’ best interests at heart,” he said.

To mark the special occasion, the association donated a tree to mayor Angus McKay, who accepted the gesture on behalf of the Ashburton District.

Mr Bray said the tree would be planted at the domain and was a fitting way to commemorate 100 years of operation for the association.

“For generations to come, they will be able to look at the tree in the domain and know that in 2013, the beekeepers of New Zealand turned out to celebrate this occasion.

“We’re thrilled to be able to host this conference and we expect some great moments this week, with some fantastic speakers ready to address us,” Mr Bray said.

As the conference got under way on Sunday, Te Radar wasted no time in entertaining the crowd, putting a light-hearted slant on the gathering.

He touched on the history of the bee industry and encouraged members to preserve their own history and experiences in the field – to ensure the history lives on for many years to come.

In a humorous address, Te Radar spoke passionately about Sir Edmund Hillary being the country’s most famous beekeeper and reflected on his personal experiences with bees, being stung many times as part of his Intrepid Journey’s sequel around the world.

The conference runs through until Thursday, where the association will hold their annual meeting.

The association has more than 600 members, but due to space restrictions, the conference had to be capped at 140 members.

– Sam Morton