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"Nero" Sutton fiddling over varroa threat

10 March 2004

"Nero" Sutton fiddling over varroa threat

Green Party MP Ian Ewen-Street is calling for the government to make a total commitment to preventing the varroa bee mite spreading to the South Island.

Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton has announced that a Board of Inquiry is to discuss a Pest Management Strategy, but Mr Ewen-Street said this was just a case of "Nero fiddling while Rome burns".

"Prevention is better than cure, so it is vital that full and proper monitoring of all inter-island traffic and freight is immediately put in place to stop infected bees and honey products reaching the South Island," said Mr Ewen-Street, the Green Party's Agriculture and Bio-Security Spokesperson.

The bee-killing varroa mite has spread through virtually all of the North Island but not, so far, to the South Island. The Board of Inquiry could take till the end of April to appoint and will hold hearings and review the proposal and submissions before providing Mr Sutton with recommendations on the proposed strategy. Mr Ewen-Street said the end of April was "too ponderous" and estimated it could be "next summer" before a decision was made.

"An inquiry leading eventually to a strategy is just ponderous bureaucracy. This is an urgent bio-security matter. We need full and immediate action on prevention."

Mr Ewen-Street said while it had been stated MAF will maintain existing inter-island movement controls on beekeeping equipment until a decision had been made, it was vital to strengthen the bio-security measures now.

"That means constant surveillance in the South Island to complement a 100 per cent, pro-active border security effort at Cook Strait."

If varroa reached the South Island it would probably be a year before it was discovered, most likely in the bush areas of the Marlborough Sounds. MAF will also carry out varroa surveillance in high-risk areas of the South Island in the near future, a move Mr Ewen-Street applauded.

"However we also need a clear and unequivocal commitment now that government funding for control measures will be forthcoming if varroa is found in the South Island."

ENDS

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