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Government-funded programme winds down

2 July 2003

Government-funded programme winds down

Movement controls to slow the spread of the varroa mite will be extended beyond the completion of the government varroa management programme on 30 June.

This extension will remain in force while decisions are made on the long term management of the destructive bee parasite.

Paul Bolger, Varroa Programme Co-ordinator for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry emphasised that the government programme was only intended as an interim measure.

“MAF will keep inter-island movement controls in place while affected industries are still working to develop a long-term strategy" he said.

Mr Bolger said the movement controls imposed since April 2000 when the mite was first found in South Auckland are a vital component of the long term management of the bee pest.

Currently there are movement restrictions on hives, bee keeping equipment and bee products between the North and South Island. Testing on 650 apiaries at key points around the South Island over the last three months suggests that the South Island is still varroa-free.

In the North Island, testing this autumn has showed significant spread across the Taranaki- East Cape movement control line. MAF believes the existing line in the North Island is no longer effective in slowing the spread of varroa, and options to move or remove the line are being considered.

A Varroa Planning Group (VPG), made up of representatives from the arable, pastoral, horticultural and beekeeping industries, local government and MAF, are continuing to work on the development of a national pest management strategy aimed at keeping varroa out of the South Island. The difficulties of putting in place a mechanism through which beneficiaries can fund a programme has delayed progress on a strategy.

The group noted that one of the key difficulties is changing the perception that varroa is only a problem for beekeepers. The economic impact assessment conducted by MAF indicated that the greatest impacts will fall on the pastoral sector through reduced pollination of clover in pasture

According to MAF's economic impact assessment, varroa could cost the South Island rural sector between $198 million (best case) and $422 million over the next 35 years. By the time the impacts of reduced pollination reach their maximum level, the cost could be over $230 million per year on South Island primary industries.

ENDS

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