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Published: 2000-12-06 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s Biosecurity Committee has criticised the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for its handling of the varroa bee mite infestation in the North Island.

The Committee was told the Taupo /National Park area was likely to become infected this year as Bay of Plenty pollination hives were moved south for honey harvest.

Biosecurity Group Manager John Simmons said MAF did not appear to have made any commitment to calculating the effect of varroa on free pollination of clover in a pastoral situation, or developing an organic alternative to the control chemical Apistan.

Environment Waikato supported an eradication campaign to rid the country of the varroa virus, which has the potential to devastate the country’s bee industry. It expressed concerns in September about MAF’s control proposal, but did not receive any response. In October the Committee investigated whether Environment Waikato could provide any support to the beekeeping industry in controlling the mite.

MAF prepared a Stage II control plan and convened a series of regional meetings for beekeepers to provide their views on the proposals. The programme involved movement control regulations, Apistan treatment for both control and preventative action, compensation for beekeepers affected by movement control, and a reduced surveillance regime in the South Island.

Mr Simmons said the beekeepers’ response to the programme was “less than enthusiastic”.

“It would seem there are no controls in place to reduce or prevent the spread of varroa. No eradication or control buffers have been set up in the periphery of known infestation sites, no feral bee control is being undertaken, and a question mark hangs over whether movement control regulations will be effective.”

Cr Evan Penny said the Committee should express its concerns to the Minister of Biosecurity about the “bureaucratic vandalism” caused by MAF. He also called for revoking of the regulations requiring the movement of hives out of the Coromandel area, originally begun to prevent contamination by tutu.

The Committee is reiterating its assistance to the Beekeepers Association that Environment Waikato is prepared to help with economic analysis of free pollination services. It is also asking MAF for comment on its report.