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Varroa spread was avoidable

Shane Ardern MP
National Party Biosecurity Spokesman

30 June 2006

Varroa spread was avoidable

National Party Biosecurity spokesman Shane Ardern says he is alarmed at comments from Biosecurity New Zealand that suggest the spread of the varroa bee mite in the South Island has been worsened by the unhindered movement of hives within the region.

Biosecurity New Zealand claims that the movement of hives has meant the 'task of defining the area of the spread has taken longer than first anticipated'.

Mr Ardern says he will be looking into the protocols applied to hive movements - especially in the upper South Island - in light of detection of the incursion.

"If the Government knew it was just a matter of time before an incursion of varroa into the South Island occurred, they should have had restrictions on hive movements in the South Island in place so we had a fighting chance of eradicating incursions before they spread.

"By not having strict protocols on hive movement - the kind that apply to stock under the bovine tuberculosis pest management strategy ­- we have essentially squandered our only chance to restrict this potentially devastating pest.

"Instead, they have effectively helped its spread.

"If investigations find that varroa has been in the South Island for upwards of a year, as is suspected, then serious questions about the effectiveness of our biosecurity surveillance will be asked.

"I will also be questioning whether the surveillance for varroa was sufficient, given that MAF estimates it is likely to cost New Zealand agriculture up to $1 billion over the next 35 years," says Mr Ardern.

ENDS


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