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Katikati firm buzzing with success

3 April 2023

The cost of hiring beehives for pollinating their Katikati based kiwifruit orchard
prompted Julie and David Hayes to purchase their own hives during the 1990s.

It was a game changing moment and now this enterprising couple have turned their love of bees into three significant bee-related

“We were very naive and we soon found out that there is more to keeping bees than putting a few hives out in the paddock,” laughs
Julie. “David had to quickly learn about beekeeping and he fell in love with it.“

The Hayes started Buzz Apiary and in 2008 they built an extraction facility for their hives and for other beekeepers in the area as beekeeping was gaining popularity.

The next step was to take charge of the processing and distribution of the honey, and in 2015, they removed a block of kiwifruit to build a factory on the land and Bee NZ Ltd was launched.

The company developed a Trademark and brand, researched overseas markets and a year later they exported their first shipment of honey under the Bee NZ brand.

Buzz Apiary supplies honey to BeeNZ from1200 hives around Katikati which are looked after by four beekeepers. Completing the circle, they also rent out hives for pollinating avocado and kiwifruit orchards.

To spread the supply risk, Julie and David became 50% shareholders in a bulk honey trading and distribution company based in Timaru. Grade One Honey Ltd maintain strong relationships with beekeepers from all around the country and supply BeeNZ and other New Zealand brands with honey.

“It’s good to be spread across the two islands so there will always be something
coming out of New Zealand. This year the wet weather in the North Island has meant a poor honey harvest but the South Island has had a great summer,” says Julie.

Bees didn’t stop producing honey during Covid and the team worked throughout the pandemic. This made them realise the importance of a great workplace culture and inspired them to work towards an international B-Corp certification which assesses your organisation’s governance, culture, diversity and values and environmental impact. The certification process took 14 months and Julie is proud of their achievement.

“It was a really rewarding journey to go on as having a great company and knowing that you’re doing your best for each other is what counts,” says Julie.

The honey industry has taken a hit over the past few years as honey prices dropped due to a worldwide slowdown in demand due to over-supply, the effects of apiary diseases and the increased costs of labour and transportation. The unprotected provenance around the word Manuka is also proving a problem as Australia is also marketing a Manuka honey.

“It’s been a tough few years for beekeepers with a lot of people jumping into the industry several years ago due to the hype around Manuka’s high prices and overseas demand.

“There’s only so much food for bees to eat, and while the supply may stay the same, the competition for that food has increased. Unfortunately there can be four beekeepers in a 5km radius which makes it harder to maintain a healthy hive. I’m predicting that over the next five to 10 years, the number of hives will
decrease by about 10,000 which will bring us back to a sustainable level,” says Julie.

“Despite its ups and downs, I’m optimistic about the NZ honey industry if all involved can work collaboratively , ethically and sustainably,” she says.