Cnr Cathy Casey and the Auckland Town Hall bees | City Councillor and occasional beekeeper
Auckland City | March 2016
"Through the Town Hall bees Council has the chance to raise the profile of bees and the important role"... more text below images
We ask Auckland City Councillor Cathy Casey (pictured right in the bee suit in the photos) for the Town Hall bee low-down:
"I think it is a fantastic initiative. It’s great that through the Town Hall bees Auckland Council has the chance to raise the profile of bees and the important role they play in New Zealand’s environment, agriculture and economy. People are genuinely surprised to learn that one third of the foods we eat are pollinated by bees. In sharing our bee story we can encourage responsible keeping of urban hives and the planting of bee-friendly plant species. It’s also brilliant that the Town Hall beehives are “sentinel hives” close to our port and can therefore act as an early warning system in detection of possible new threats to the New Zealand honeybee.
A dedicated Auckland beekeeper, Maureen Maxwell, approached the council several years ago with the concept of beehives on the Town Hall. The idea was that the Town Hall hives would function as sentinel hives for early signs of threats to the NZ honeybee arriving via the port, while also highlighting the value of the honeybee. The project was given the green light by the then-Mayor John Banks and in July 2010 the hives were presented to the city by the National Association of Beekeepers. The project has been retained through the amalgamation of councils. The hives were removed for a short period while maintenance work was done on the roof of the Town Hall, but the hives are now back in place.
Keeping a thriving beehive on the Town Hall balcony is a nod to the council’s vision of a greener Auckland - something that we should all strive for. Maintaining a clean green environment in our inner city is only going to benefit the good health of Aucklanders who live there and those who come to work, shop or otherwise enjoy the space, and what better way to do that than by bringing a little bit of nature into the CBD! And I like the idea that council is contributing, albeit on a very small scale, a natural food source in a world where refined sugar is so dominant.
Auckland Council doesn’t have any other beehives in the city, however the council’s Auckland Design Office is currently working on a project that looks at how some city centre rooftops might be utilised to support beehives . The project is still very much in the feasibility and scoping phase, but watch this space!
People love the idea of Town Hall bees and we often hear comments that people would like to taste the Town Hall honey that comes from them, because it’s such a unique beehive! Visitors to the Town Hall often see the posters and ask about them, which is just fantastic.
Bottling of the honey is handled by the beekeepers who manage the beehives. Some honey is presented as civic gifts and some is sold to raise funds for the continual maintenance of the Town Hall hives and bee health. In the past the Town Hall honey has been sold through Smith & Caughey’s with the store returning 100% of the sale price, however due to the very recent reinstatement of the hives following Town Hall roof maintenance, the Town Hall honey is not currently available."
POD thanks photographer Lottie Hedley and beekeeper Kim Kneijbers for letting us tag along with her.