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Honey Producers Pay For Cheap-Skate Biosecurity

Honey Producers Could Pay For Cheap-Skate Biosecurity

An outbreak of imported bee-killing mites is a graphic example of the damage which can be caused by lax biosecurity controls, Green MP Ian Ewen-Street said today.

"This outbreak could cost the honey industry millions of dollars, and also seriously threatens the income of horticulturalists and pastoral farmers who rely on bees to fertilise their plants. Border control in New Zealand has been done on a shoe-string, and honey producers, horticulturalists and pastoral farmers may all have to pay a high price for past cheap-skate measures," said Mr Ewen-Street.

The Varroa mite has killed up to 60 per cent of bees in infested hives in the UK and US. The outbreak in South Auckland is the first in New Zealand - which together with Australia has up to now been considered the only major bee-keeping country free of the mite.

Mr Ewen-Street said the outbreak of the Varroa mite in New Zealand was potentially devastating for the country. The $1.8 million live bee export industry has already been halted until more is known about how far the mite has spread.

"Within 24 hours we will know more about how far the outbreak has spread, but we rely on bees for the pollination of all our pastoral and horticultural crops. This infestation emphasises again how dependent our country is on stringent border controls."

Mr Ewen-Street said the Varroa outbreak was directly due to lax biosecurity controls, as the importation of live bees into New Zealand had been banned for over 30 years.

An announcement of an increased level of inspection of containers announced by the Minister for Biosecurity on Monday was not enough to solve the current biosecurity crisis, said Mr Ewen-Street.

"At present only 5 per cent of the 350,000 containers we import every year are internally examined, despite a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry finding that 39 per cent of containers are externally contaminated with soil, plant and animal material.

"I will be urging the minister to take immediate action to improve our border controls, and also to educate travellers about the measures they need to take to protect our biosecurity," said Mr Ewen-Street.

Ian Ewen-Street MP: 04 470 6727 or 025 902 527 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: 04 470 6723 or 021 1265 289

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