Honey wars: Pollen war breaks out between landowners

A pollen war has erupted between two landowners in the lower North Island – exposing an industry-wide problem as demand for Manuka honey soars.

Chris Walsh bought into a block of Manuka-covered land just out of Whanganui two years ago, and the hobby beekeeper was keen to take advantage of the near-80 hectares of Manuka scrub on site.

He started placing beehives on his land, according to the industry-standard – which is considered one hive per hectare of Manuka.

But Chris' neighbour also has a stand of Manuka – around 20 hectares – and he too has hives on his property.

"Yeah it's a bit of a funny one, because he talks to us about being neighbourly but we think he sort of needs to take a look in the mirror," Chris told TVNZ's Fair Go.

That neighbour is Russell Johnson, who has a long-standing agreement with Comvita. The company owns the hives on his land and collects the honey in return for a lease payment.

Under the hive-per-hectare ratio, Russell would have just 20 hives. Instead, he has more than 200. Russell says this is because he's not just targeting Manuka, but all honey nectar – including thistles and clover.

And this is where it gets a bit sticky.

"Their bees are freeloading off our resource," says Chris.

Because 40 of the hives are right on the boundary – and right up next to Chris Walsh's Manuka.

It's an allegation Russell firmly denies.

"When there's a shared resource… What do you do? You work out a way to share it. That's what you would do," he says.

Russell Johnson says bees don’t like Manuka, and his hives are fed mostly by the surrounding food on his land, not from flying over to his neighbour's.

Gold fever

Gold fever has hit New Zealand in a big way since sales of Manuka started taking off, thanks to its health properties.

Comvita values Manuka sales for nearly half its annual sales – and the price it pays at the farm gate has risen between 10 and 15 per cent annually in the last five years.

That's meant a lot more people trying to get in on the action – and the issue of boundary stocking – putting your hives right next to your neighbour - has come to the fore.

Comvita says the issue affects the company "as much as any beekeeper" and that "disputes over resource access is an issue in the industry".

The company says it considers this case to be one between landowners, but says these hive sites are historic and equally distributed across the property – and notes that half the hives were moved away from Chris' boundary as a sign of goodwill.

"We also further agreed to review the hive siting… with both landowners, at the end of the honey season," it said in a statement.

A pollen war's erupted between two landowners in the lower North Island. Source: Fair Go

Cop breaks leg after being hit by police car during early morning Rotorua pursuit

A police officer suffered a broken leg after being struck by a police car at the conclusion of a police pursuit in Rotorua this morning.

The male officer was stepping out of his vehicle to arrest the driver after road spikes had successfully stopped the vehicle at the intersection of State Highway 29 and McLaren Falls.

A second police car struck the officer before going on to collide with a third police vehicle.

The officer was sent to hospital, with no other injuries in the incident. 

The pursuit had begun at about 2.40am when police had attempted to stop a speeding vehicle on Ngongotaha Road.

A 31-year-old man with two outstanding warrants was arrested and charged with driving while disqualified, dangerous driving, failing to stop and possession of a knife in a public place.

He is due to appear in Tauranga District Court today.

"Drivers who choose not to pull over for Police when instructed put themselves, other members of the public and our staff at risk,"Rotorua Area Commander Inspector Anaru Pewhairangi said.

"The message is clear, anyone who is signalled to stop by Police should pull over immediately."

A Serious Crash Unit investigation is underway.

Police car night generic
Police car (File picture). Source: 1 NEWS

Gerry Brownlee defends phone call to law firm in which he's accused of bullying junior solicitor

A law firm is accusing Gerry Brownlee of phone bullying after a 15 minute call he made to their offices, but the National MP says how can you bully a law firm?

A junior solicitor at Adina Thorn fielded the call from Mr Brownlee who was calling to note his concern about a letter from the firm warning Christchurch residents about dodgy steel mesh and inviting residents to join a class action.

Mr Brownlee rejects many of the claims the firm has made in a press release publicising the matter and told Morning Report he was not angry or ranting during the call.

"I was very keen to understand what the basis of the pleading was.

"This is a law firm, asking people to sign up with them, saying they're going to stand before the court and plead a case on their behalf for compensation for ... what?"

He said by signing up to the class action, people would effectively be identifying themselves as having a problem which could have a long term impact well beyond compensation they might get from a court.

"Was it for product failure, or potential product failure, or catastrophic failure in the event of an earthquake or was it because the Commerce Commission had fined steel companies for inappropriately labelling their products and that people might have bought it inappropriately?

"They are not unreasonable questions to answer."

Mr Brownlee said he thought he was speaking to Adina Thorn and did not identify himself in the phone call.

"They wrote to me as a householder so I spoke to them as a householder."

He said he assumed the call was recorded and welcomes the release of the taped call.

"That would demonstrate that there was certainly no ranting and no bullying.

"Had I identified myself right up front, would they have had different answers for me?"

He said the law firm has not contacted him since the phone call despite having concerns for its staff member.


The National MP for Ilam strongly denies what he calls “outrageous accusations”, saying he was just doing his job.
Gerry Brownlee. Source: 1 NEWS


British dance group Rudimental coming to New Zealand to headline festival

British chart topper Rudimental is headed to our shores for the first time in several years.

The drum and bass outfit, known for their collaboration with Ed Sheeran and other artists, will be among the headliners at Christchurch's Electric Avenue music festival in February, festival organisers announced today.

The festival is expected to attract a crowd of about 15,000 as the band performs a DJ set with live vocalists and instrumentalists.

"Bringing major international artists to Christchurch is a key factor in the Festival's future growth," said festival director Callam Mitchell.

"Christchurch has definitely missed out on being able to host big international artists a lot recently, so we try to fill that gap."

Rudimental first scored a hit in 2012 for their collaboration with singer John Newman on Feel the Love. In 2015 the band released Lay it All On Me, which featured Ed Sheeran.

Other headliners headed to Christchurch on 23 February for Electric Avenue include Netsky, Orbital and The Correspondents.

Early bird tickets for the festival go on sale at midday on Monday.

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 10: British dance act Rudimental perform at Lollapalooza Berlin on September 10, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.(Photo by Ant Palmer/Getty Images)
British dance act Rudimental perform at Lollapalooza Berlin in September 2017. Source: Getty

Major delays expected after crash on State Highway 1 in Waikato

A car and truck have crashed on State Highway at Tokoroa in Waikato today.

The crash happened at 9.55am today between East Parkdale Street and Main Road.

Policea are urging motorists to avoid the area and follow diversions with major delays expected.

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS