Historic: 1974 MAF seminar: tribute to Trevor Rowe and Chris Brommell

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I came to NZ to be a beekeeper in 1974… For me the date was memorable, not only for my emigration, but because the US president Richard Nixon had resigned - while I was waiting in LAX for the plane to New Zealand!

I was coming to Eltham Apiaries to work for Trevor Rowe, and within only a day or so of arriving, I got taken to my first beekeeper’s event/field day/seminar type thing. An absolutely eye-opening event to introduce me to NZ beekeeping!

The other beekeeper for the trip was Chris Bromell, a commercial beekeeper from Manaia. Chris pulled into Eltham Apiaries to drive us to Taupo, in his beautifully-kept 1965 or 1966 (?) Rambler.

So this bit of a ramble is in honour of those two beekeepers, the first beekeepers I ever met in NZ! And then for some of those I met at that seminar...

The 1974 seminar, organised by the Ministry of Ag and Fish, had an amazing set of papers and people - scientific, practical - all sorts. In those few days, I met many beekeepers that I would continue to respect throughout my time in the industry.

Murray Reid - after meeting him at the seminar, I pestered him with letters (yes, we wrote those) and badgered him for information for many, many years. Still do, sometimes, but now by email.

Peter Pegram was there, talking about extracting manuka honey. Peter was an ex-WWII serviceman, and ended up with resettlement as a beekeeper in the Wairoa area of the North Island’s East Coast. Manuka was not a blessing. It was hard on combs, and on strainers, and then once you got it extracted, you’d have money deducted from the payout because it tasted like manuka! Peter, Snow and their family became good friends, all after meeting him in Taupo. I can remember Peter railing about “the IMD” - HMA (Honey Marketing Authority) had taken over from the IMD more than 20 years previously, but in Peter’s speech they were all the same…

I first met Ted Roberts at the seminar, as he delivered a talk on “Honey Through the Ages”. This was when Ted was still with Massey University, before he joined the MAF. I miss Ted’s wise counsel, and I’m amazed when I realise he was 32 years old when I first met him back then!

One speaker, a marketing expert, decried the unimaginative packaging of NZ honeys, giving examples of honey packs that didn’t really ‘play’ to the consumer. He put up the image of a pack that he thought was appealing and informative. It had a background of citrus flowers and leaves, and the pack was from “Citrus Apiaries”. He felt promoting the select source in that way was a good thing for marketing the pack.

The audience broke into laughter. They all knew that the Citrus Apiaries label was from Bill Haines and his son Malcolm - and that it was not so much citrus, as some of the finest of Northland’s manuka honey!

I did not realise at the time that it was a magnificent event I had been taken to. Trevor and Chris introduced me to the commercial beekeeping industry in taking me to the seminar.
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Hawkes Bay
I'm pretty sure I was at the same seminar but all I can really remember was somebody doing a magnificent reading of the man from snowy River. I'm not normally a poetry fan but that reading is stuck in my mind.
Bay of Plenty
I'm pretty sure I was at the same seminar but all I can really remember was somebody doing a magnificent reading of the man from snowy River. I'm not normally a poetry fan but that reading is stuck in my mind.
Not a patch on the poem, but that's my favorite movie. Sigrid Thornton on a horse yeah hah.
The first hives I ever went to look at buying were some of Chris Bromell's down Mania way, concrete bases and lids. was going to buy but a lot closer to home came up for sale.
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Hawkes Bay
Your quite right Nick , we did go to Robin's place. He had some new boxes with a really flash jointing system with the idea being that you pulled the boxes apart and stored them flat to save room. It was a beautiful example of joinery but of course would never worked because the Timber expanded with the hives humility and the bees gumed them up with propolis . Robin was an ideas man but not always so good on the practical.
As for the tanks I think there were four and I certainly remember having to dig the wax out of the top. It was hard, hot and sticky work.
Years later, one of the tanks was being heated and pumped out but the top of the tank didn't melt and when it finally fell the whole middle of the concrete tank was shattered.
We had a similar system in Hawke's Bay only using steam from a boiler. The tanks weren't a great system but they were better than the 40 pound tins that were the norm at the time. Drums are definitely better.