Access To Leatherwood

The following article has been written in response to many enquiries that have been received from relatively new beekeepers about how to access leatherwood.  It describes the current situation in southern Tasmania.

Public or private land:  There are a few private landholdings within bees’ flying distance of stands of leatherwood trees, but these are generally poor resources.  Arrangements between landowner and beekeeper for siting hives here are a matter between the two parties.  The rest of the article is devoted to siting hives on public land, as this is where the overwhelming majority of leatherwood is.

Forestry Tasmania (FT), Parks and Wildlife (part of DPIPWE) and Hydro Tasmania are the three landowners who manage public land where leatherwood occurs.  In southern Tasmania, FT manages most of this land, although recent World Heritage changes, the more recent change of government and doubts over FT’s future all make the present situation very fluid.

Apiary sites in leatherwood country on public land, generally separated by at least 3km, have been identified and developed over the years, and each one has an agreed capacity (number of hives) and has been allocated to a particular beekeeper; a licence exists between the beekeeper and the land manager (typically an annual lease in the case of FT and a 10-year licence in the case of Parks).  For FT sites, in 2014/15, the rent payable by the beekeeper was $47 site fee plus $3.78 per hive.  For any one site, the licensee has a right to continue to use the site year after year, provided the rent is paid and the terms of the lease are observed.

The Southern Beekeepers Association has been allocated two of the sites on FT land, and these are available for small-scale beekeepers, who do not have sites of their own, to each put a limited number of hives.  This is further discussed at the end of this article.

The Southern Beekeepers Association has a subcommittee whose job it is to recommend allocation of sites: the Hive Site Allocation Committee (HSAC).  It is guided by the Protocol for Beekeeping on Public Land in Southern Tasmania.  From this document (on the SBA website) it can be seen that there are four ways for a beekeeper to acquire access to an apiary site in leatherwood country:

1(a) Find a beekeeper who has a site on FT land which he/she is prepared to relinquish and is willing to sell you his/her hives (with the number of hives matching the site’s capacity);  then the hive purchaser may apply to FT for a priority allocation of the site.  Note that it is not permitted to buy the rights to a site without buying the associated hives with it.  Also note that when selling hives-plus-site, tendering is not permitted.  In 2014, two sites changed hands in this way in southern Tasmania.  The HSAC takes note of these transactions but generally does not interfere with them.

1(b) Find a beekeeper who has a site on Parks land which he/she is willing to relinquish; then the two parties complete a ‘crown land transfer’ through Parks.

  1. Wait until an existing site becomes vacant.  This occurs when the occupying beekeeper relinquishes the site voluntarily, or when he/she is forced to relinquish it because he/she did not comply with the terms of the lease or with the Protocol. When such a site is advertised in the Mercury and in Bee News, apply for it: initially to the land manager e.g. FT, then a HSAC application form also has to be completed.  This is rare: only one site has become vacant in southern Tasmania in the last two years.
  2. Find a new site.  There is land managed by FT, Parks and the Hydro that (a) is accessible, and (b) has no apiary site on it, and (c) has some leatherwood resource.  In the case of FT, how much land and how good the leatherwood resource is is currently the subject of discussion between FT and the TBA;  experienced beekeepers generally consider there is little if any of this land that would yield commercial amounts of leatherwood honey.  In any case, if a beekeeper, in liaison with the land manager, identifies a new site (at least 3 km from an existing site), then he/she has first option on it, subject to compliance with the Protocol and approval by the HSAC.   Also see comments about other-than-leatherwood below.
  3. As a temporary measure, find a beekeeper who has the rights to a site but who is planning to only partially use it in the coming summer.  He/she is not permitted to sub-let (i.e. charge for) the site or part of it, but may be prepared to let another beekeeper use part of it gratis.

Other floral resources:   Some existing apiary sites on public land are used by beekeepers to target floral resources other than leatherwood – although leatherwood is the most common one.  Forest flower, and increasingly manuka tea tree are targeted by some.  Although generally less dependable and lower-yielding than leatherwood, there is plenty of scope for new sites to be identified on public land for tea tree etc.

Association Sites:    A 40-hive site on Clear Hill Road (off the Gordon Road beyond Maydena), and a 20-hive site on the Arve Road at Crib Hill Road are ‘Association sites’ and are thus available for small-scale beekeepers who do not have their own sites to place a limited number of hives to access leatherwood:  in 2014/15 it was 5 hives maximum per SBA member at Clear Hill Road, and 3 hives max. per member at Crib Hill Road.  The process for applying for one of these will be included in a future edition of Bee News, and will be posted on the website.

MR  14th June 2015