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Cabinet backs two-year varroa management plan

Cabinet has approved a $7.5 million plan to manage the varroa bee mite over the next two years, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said the aim of the plan was to keep the South Island varroa-free for as long as realistically possible, and to minimise the economic impacts in the North Island.

"We need to do enough surveillance to pick up any incursion in early stages."

Cabinet had already approved an early start to some elements of the plan last month, to enable treatment of high-risk hives in pollination, and reduce the risk of infected hives spreading the mite to the lower North Island.

Movement of bees and bee products from North Island to South Island is still subject to permit and restrictions.

Mr Sutton said that if varroa was detected in the South Island, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry (MAF) would seek government funding to carry out a delimiting survey to assess the feasibility of eradication.

"Cabinet has approved research that will help in assessing the feasibility of successful eradication, as well as establishing a decision-making framework, preparing a response plan, and working with regional councils and other government ministries to make any response as effective as possible."

In the North Island, Government has funded the treatment of high-risk hives moving to pollination and boundary areas to minimise spread. Provision has also been made for another round of treatment of known infected hives this coming autumn.

Movement control restrictions are in place between the upper and lower North Island. Mr Sutton said that the boundary still ranrom from Taranaki to East Cape, but the current line had been revised, after extensive consultation with beekeeping industry, including 3 mediation meetings between beekeepers from different regions. The revised boundary would minimise impacts on beekeepers, but still give protection to the southern North Island.

Movement permitting conditions were being re-drafted, and surveillance would continue to track the spread of varroa into previously uninfested areas of the North Island.

Mr Sutton said it was vital that beekeepers be given the skills to deal with varroa, and the Government had funded a 2-year extension programme of workshops, field days and other activities to ensure beekeepers had the knowledge necessary. The Government had approved funding to produce a book about managing beehives with varroa under New Zealand conditions.

He said Cabinet had approved $500,000 available for varroa-specific research immediately, and the door was open for further research funding if it could be justified.

The National Beekeepers Association has been granted $20,000 a year for 2 years, so it can purchase technical advice, as part of the co-operative approach between industry and Government which has been a feature of the varroa response.


ENDS


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