Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 52, September 2008
(by Alex Spinks, Hikutaia)
With development of the Ohinemuri District towards the end of the 19th century, came an increasing number of fruit orchards and backyard fruit trees. It became essential that there be an abundance of honey bees to pollinate the fruit trees and therefore produce honey.
In 1905 the Government's bee expert, Mr J. Hopkins, visited the Ohinemuri District and looked at possibilities of establishing bee farming in the area. He met with local orchardists and interested people. No doubt prior to this visit there were hives of bees in the district and honey was being produced.
By 1910 a Thames firm, John Renshaw Ltd., advertised in the local newspaper, the Ohinemuri Gazette, that it had a supply of bee hives and all bee keeping requisites available. A year later Mr Westbrook, Government apiary instructor, demonstrated the fundamentals of the growing honey industry at Mr J. Pennell's property on Thames Road.
Over the next 20 years the honey industry was based around many orchardists and "hobby beekeepers".
The main honey plants in the Coromandel Peninsula, Hauraki Plains and Waikato areas are clover, buttercup, lotus major and native trees rewarewa, manuka, kanuka, pohutukawa and tawari.
The Thames Valley Beekeepers' Association was formed in Te Aroha in 1919 and about the same time the Hauraki Plains Beekeepers' Association was established at Ngatea. Also in 1920 there was a Government directive that beekeepers must register their hives with the Department of Agriculture.
By the 1930s several specialist beekeepers and honey manufacturers were becoming established. Some of these were:
George Hill, father of John Hill of Tirohia, established his apiary in the 1930s with some 150 hives based at his farm "Three Oaks" where he had a honey house. There were stringent rules to be met for selling the product for on one occasion he apparently extracted his honey before it was capped over in the cones. This did not meet the standard required and was returned by the Honey Marketing Authority.
John still has a few hives and his father's honey house is still in use.
By the 1940 Mr Manktelow snr., and his son George had around 1200 hives spread throughout the area. Their honey factory was in Railway Street, later to become part of the Thames Valley Co-operative Dairy factory.
The Manktelows serviced their hives with two Chevrolet two-ton trucks. They sold most of their honey to the Self Help stores. Their Tirohia apiary produced some three tons of honey a year.
Les Johnson had some 1000 hives in the Netherton area, where he had his honey house on his farm. It is still there today, on the property now owned by John and Joy van Hellemond. The building was of totara and three compartments, one for the extraction plant, the second for the storage of boxes and the third for his vehicles.
Being on the main road Les often claimed he sold eight tons of honey through his roadside stall, during the war years, 1939-45, because sugar was rationed in those days.
Roderick Matleson [Matheson - a correction supplied by Christine Barbour nee Hill, 2019. R D Matheson was John Hill's father-in-law i.e.. father of Joan Hill. See also: Snippets - Diamond Wedding], a railway engine driver of Paeroa, was a "hobby beekeeper" with some 60 hives and he produced excellent honey.
He gave me my first hive in 1949 and in the first year I got six preserving jars of honey. He sold his hives to Theras Broadley.
From around 1945 and for the next 20 years, Theras Broadley had over 1200 hives and his honey house was at No. 2 Seymour Street in Paeroa. It was pulled down some 10 years ago to make way for the L and P Café project. This building is thought to be Grey and Menzies Limited's first aerated water factory .
Mr Broadley had a very productive business and in 1948 he purchased a new Chevrolet truck from Wm. Fleming and Sons, Paeroa, for £1200 ($2400) to service his wide-spread hives. His refined honey was packed in 60lb (27kgs) tins, sent them to the Honey Marketing Authority and received 1/- (10 cents) per lb or 25c per kg. Mr Broadley sold his honey under the brand name of "Paeroa Honey packed by Paeroa Bee Supplies Limited, 2 Seymour Street, Paeroa".
The writer spent many hours with Mr Broadley learning the honey trade, which he now continues on a small scale. There were several other "locals" who maintained an interest in bee keeping and honey making, including Jack Finlay.
From around the early 1980s Arataki Apiaries from Rotorua, established a base in the former Netherton cheese factory, to service the Thames Valley-Coromandel Peninsula arm of their large company. The firm has some 1600 hives in the area.