Auckland Council Proposed Unitary Plan *Update*

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Auckland Council

Auckland Beekeepers may have to register their beekeeping under the RMA!?!!

The latest as at June 23rd, ’15.

Our work on this continues from last year, yeah – as it takes that long for these things to be considered.

I travelled in to the big city again to make my presentation regarding the ‘Bee Poo’ submission wanting to add beekeeping to the Resource Management Act (RMA).

The hearing panel had a judge as its chair so serious stuff indeed. They as a panel, appeared to me quite relaxed and were patient with my nervousness. I think they must have heard it all as they were quite versed in the controversial Bee-Poo toodoo in Kumeu used as a justification to consider change to such a large legislative beast as the RMA. The panel also acknowledges that the Bylaws are where Bees are currently being managed under.

Well that was what this unitary plan consultation is all about, an opportunity for even the simple resident to present their ideas to help their city move from the 19th century into the 21st century.

My request asks that Bee keeping bee left out of the RMA as Bee Excrement used as the justification for such a change really is not justification as this really was a neighbour dispute where two land-owners had a ‘disagreement’ and that even with such a change to the RMA it would not have seen this dispute resolved and in my view a legal course would still have been the outcome for this situation, the only plus for the staff of council was that (if we had the new bylaws in force) they could have gone onto the site, consulted with both parties and explained the rules and guidelines to the landowners.

The bottom line ; ) is that bee excrement is not a serious on-going health threat to the land use.

Truly it was really only a matter of time when Beekeeping and Bees would see some new management expectations (rules) from local councils. Lets face it, Bee losses around the world requires support to re-build honey bee colonies and backyard beekeeping when managed well may well bee the saving grace for our precious kiwi honey bees. Awareness needs to promoted, Disease education and Beehive colony management is definitely a high priority for all Beekeepers.

One thing that comes out of this, in my view, is that I believe Bees are acknowledged within the Auckland Council staff as important. Under the new Bylaws, they have added 4 rules with some guidelines.

The craziest thing which I never heard when I went to submit was the ‘bee excrement’ rule which was number 4 in those rules, which I think after reading all the ‘new’ rules, appeared not to be necessary as the first 3 rules cover their perceived necessary ‘management’ of Beehives, expectations.

I stated at the hearing for the proposed unitary plan that no rule can stop Bees pooing!¬! and the rules are targeting the Beekeeper who can’t know where and when their Bees are going to excrete waste!! …and that I don’t support rule 4.

The good thing about the outcomes of the Bylaws is that Beekeepers are free to keep Bees in Auckland City and that there is no restriction on the number of hives. The council appears confident that these 4 rules will help encourage good management of beehives and they appear to leave the ‘registration’ of Bees to central government (MPI through their contractors AssureQuality. the other side is that it will definitely give staff some rules to deal with nuisance complaints – and I feel happy that this was my view and that they could see this was the best option without adding extra costs to beekeepers.

These changes to the bylaws, I beelieve are confirming that Auckland Council want to keep encouraging beekeeping in Auckland but whilst also acknowledging some concerns which could cause issues such as the ‘bee excrement’ issue.

Anyway folks, this is still a work in progress as council have set some dates for some more mediation to go over their ideas formed from the hearing meetings.

…watch this space…as promised, we will keep you posted on any updates.

Here is a copy of my submission:

Auckland Unitary Proposals June 2015

Subject: Opposition to Submission 6716 – Points 1, 2
Summary of Decisions Requested 11 June 2014. Page #408.
Sub//Point : 6716, 1 and *2

Point 1:
– Theme : Definitions
– Summary : Add a definition of “ Apiaries and Beekeeping”
– Topic : New
Point 2:
– Theme : Rural Zones
– Topic : General
– Subtopic : I 13.1 Activity Table
– Summary : Amend activity table to provide for beekeeping in the Mixed Rural and Rural Production Zones as a permitted activity, or as a restricted discretionary activity where the hives are within 200meters from a Countryside Living zone or Urban zone.

Further Submitter: Reference : FS 178
Margaret Groot, 165 Wairere Road, Waitakere Township, Auckland 0782. PH: (09) 8109964

Firstly I would like to acknowledge Auckland Council’s (council) outcomes in the Animal Management review and tabled under Additional Information to Animal Management Bylaw – refer pages 12-15.
This outcome sees 4 rules.
1.Every person keeping Bees in an urban area must take all reasonable steps to ensure beehives are positioned and managed in a way that has minimal impact to any other person.
2.Every person keeping Bees in an urban area must maintain honey bee colonies with a calm temperament and must take reasonable steps to control swarming.
3. Every person keeping Bees in an urban area must ensure there is a suitable water source for the Bees on the premises on which the beehives are kept.
4.Every person keeping Bees in an urban area must take all reasonable steps to minimise nuisance to any other person from Bee excrement.

I have submitted on both the Bylaw Reviews and this Unitary Plan proposals because Bees are important to our environment, New Zealand produces the best Honey in the world and Auckland sits on the edge of the Waitakere Ranges where the Bees forage to produce local honey as a great health resource for Aucklanders.
I oppose that zoning should make any difference for enabling the individual to be able to keep Bees.
In my view, people should be able to keep Bees in ANY zone of Auckland, the outcomes of the Bylaws review 30 April 2015, continues to enable beekeeping without it being ‘illegal’ – which is fantastic!

The nuisance factor gives residents and staff a course of action for neighbour disputes and always has but the changes now give staff some criteria to deal with perceived nuisances.

Why was this submission raised?
The basis for the submission 6716 to adding Beekeeping and Apiaries is stated as Bee Excrement – the new bylaws cover this but have made it restrictive as it is zoned based.

Concerns are that if council adds this rule to the RMA there will then come costs to ‘manage’ such a rule, and beekeepers are already paying to keep bees through central government, this would open the door for more charges to beekeepers and ratepayers in general.

Nothing has been stated by council about the possibilities of charges nor how much – there is just not enough feedback from council regarding this very important possible outcome.
Council at the mediations on this submission sees council state that Bylaws are sufficient to manage ‘Bees’.

• A rule to manage beekeeper behaviour will not stop bee excrement, nor bird excrement nor in the natural world stop nature to excrete waste.

I believe that even with adding such a rule or definition to the RMA would not have prevented this neighbour dispute.

The article regarding the ‘bee poo’ matter in the local Rodney times?
…talks about the two parties…
One neighbour planting native and fruit trees to help the environment and happens to have bees on their property, which are owned and managed by a beekeeper.

The other not wanting to garage their vehicle as a protest to bee poo.
After research, I see that this appears to be a neighbour dispute, the new bylaws would have only served council staff to enable them to attend and refer the ‘rules’ then give advice, but the outcome in my view is that for these parties would still appear to be a legal avenue for resolution.

The submitter talks of bee excrement not being acceptable in an urban environment and then asks for a 200meter distance between hives and neighbours. (The 200m appears to have been discounted in the first instance which is great!)

I think the submitters request is ‘unreasonable’ due to the fact that bee excrement is a natural occurance and occurs in short periods and is not a constant and regular threat !

I am disappointed in councils addition of bee excrement in the bylaws as the 1-3 rules already deal with reasonable Beehive management.

At the end of the day I support the keeping of Bees in Auckland regardless of zones.
I do not support the keeping of bees being added to the RMA due to the fact that this type of issue between neighbours would still not have been resolved by having such a rule. The new bylaws will be sufficient to deal with such neighbour disputes.

My main issue with this is that in reality a beekeeper is now a target through the new bylaws, common-sense understands that we can perhaps control a dog-owner who has a Dog which poos on the street or runs loose, reality with common-sense knows that a beekeeper cannot ‘control’ their bees excrement nor where they need to excrete waste.

In terms of this submission to unitary plan proposals, adding Bees to the resource management act would not have prevented this neighbour dispute.

The bylaws can be applied as council staffs course of action for any such perceived ‘nuisance’.

• Please find a copy of my submission to the Animal Management Bylaws – Proposed ‘Control of Bees’ which I believe is relevant to this submission and gives some background reasons for not wanting extra ‘controls’ due to central government already managing apiary registrations and disease management.

Local Bodies (council) have always used the ‘nuisance’ bylaw to help council staff deal with ‘issues’ raised by residents. Often related to neighbour-issues. This nuisance bylaw enabled staff to address ‘ANY’ issue which would normally bee resolved through negotiation. If any issue escalated, it was possible for staff to involve the police if necessary. For residents – escalation means they could take-up their own legal action / advice.
The nuisance bylaw worked by enabling residents to invoke the ‘quiet enjoyment’ afforded to all persons living in any area a course of action for any complaint. To continue with this nuisance bylaw would benefit council and would not require any extra resources.
There are two types of Beekeepers, Commercials and Hobbyists.
Central government , through Ministry of Primary Industries manage ‘Beekeeper and Beekeeping’ through contractors such as ‘Asure Quality’. Beekeepers already pay to register their land or address where they are keeping Bees (apiary).
They complete an annual disease conformity agreement as part of that agreement requirement.
There are local Bee Clubs, where education is available.
There is the National Beekeeping Association of New Zealand who research and work actively with commercial Beekeepers in all facets of ‘Bee management’. This association is available to Hobbyists and Commercial alike.
Auckland has 85% of green areas available within its boundaries a natural resource which can support Honey Bees.
The Waitakere Ranges provides Honey Bees with a large foraging area of Manuka, which is acclaimed as resulting in the ‘Best Honey in the world with proven beneficial health properties’ – please encourage Beekeeping so as to allow people to have this local healthy resource available to them.
Please don’t target Beekeepers with a regulation which may bee used to penalise them.
Save the Bees
Please note: Reference to comments made on the control of Bees proposal – it appears that some of the methods stated, such as ‘…killing Bees to prevent swarming…’ are not commonly practiced amongst Hobbyists beekeepers who value their Bees and who manage them differently by ways of a spilt-method
My view is that the killing of queens is not sustainable due to the current state of loss of Bees world-wide.
A hobbyists may well bee the saving grace of the kiwi Honey Bee, in my opinion, as they do not take on Beekeeping lightly, I do not agree with council staff comment from review, that ‘..Beekeepers are not registering their apiaries and not willing to do so…’.
My experience is that they are doing so.
There are significant costs involved in taking-up Beekeeping and also a regular commitment of time and energy for, often, a small reward of a few jars of Honey for their own use.
The cost of a hive is between $500 to $1200 then buying basic Beekeeping gear including suits and gloves – upwards of $500.
Please note, this is the surface of costs of whats involved, this would not include Honey extraction in a commercial kitchen, Honey jars and any extraction gear.
I reiterate my point that Beekeepers both Commercial and Hobbyists do not take-up Beekeeping lightly.
My Points.
1st point is that to create a new bylaw would require the resources to manage it. It would require staff, training, administration, vehicles and facilities – Animal Welfare is a good example of what would bee required.
2nd point is that overall it appears that the council cannot afford such extra costs and from my understanding there are on-going staff redundancies in some departments.
Questions for council.
• If such a bylaw was introduced – how would ratepayers feel about a possible increase to fund managing a ‘control of Bees’ regulation?
• What will council provide Beekeepers with?
• With such a regulation, would it more likely penalise Beekeepers with extra fees and perhaps create them as targets ?
• Under the proposed Unitary Plan the proposed Bee rule was submitted to bee added to the Resource Management Act – what precedent would bee set by passing this bylaw?
• What effect would it have on costs to manage?
• What costs would then bee imposed?
Please note: The outcome of the proposed fee in the Auckland Plan in 2012, resulted in supporting the keeping of Bees on private land, public land required written consent with no fee payable.
I reiterate that Hobbyist Beekeeping may well bee the saving grace for the Honey Bee.
What is the desired outcome?
• That anyone can keep Bees on their own private land regardless of land zone in Auckland.
• That Beekeepers are not charged any extra – as they already pay to keep Bees by registering their land as an apiary through central government.
• Continue the ‘nuisance’ bylaw for any issue raised by residents or ratepayers and wold give complainant an avenue for their concerns / complaint.
What would this mean for council?
• Benefit is that there would be no added cost.
• To keep current nuisance bylaw – Staff would still have a course available to them.
3rd point is that Hobbyist Beekeepers are enjoying the past-time of keeping Bees. Their motivation – in my experience – is so they can help save the Honey Bee, teach their children about the environment, the link of food, health and nature – to enjoy having a healthy locally sourced Honey which is beneficial to theirs and their children’s health.
• I do not support the proposed regulation regarding Bees.
• Please keep the line as in the result from submissions to the Auckland Plan – no fee, no regulation for Beekeeping on private land.
• Thank you for encouraging participation and thanks to the staff who helped submitters through this process.

Thanks for reading guys.


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2 thoughts on “Auckland Council Proposed Unitary Plan *Update*

  1. Robert says:

    Hi Margaret,

    First of all thank you for taking the time on behalf of other beekeepers to attend. I did make submissions but did not attend the meeting myself.

    It amazes me how much people get up in arms about “bee poo” considering it dries to a small yellow dot – washes off easily enough has no smell. Surely they’ve experienced bird poo in their life before? That is much worse doesn’t dry quickly – is acidic and wrecks car paint if left – yet we all want birds in our trees.

    We have our own hives near the washing line and we don’t have much trouble at all. My neighbors were all consulted before we got hives one forgot I had them a year later when I first gave them a jar of honey and the other always asks how they are and isn’t worried at all both of my neighbors are much closer to my hives than the person in Kumeu that had the original complaint that kicked all this off.

  2. Sneha says:

    Heyya..It amazes me how much people get up in arms about “bee poo” considering it dries to a small yellow dot – washes off easily enough has no smell. Surely they’ve experienced bird poo in their life before? That is much worse doesn’t dry quickly – is acidic and wrecks car paint if left – yet we all want birds in our trees.

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