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Varroa decision - management the realistic option

2 August 2006

Varroa decision - management is the realistic option

The Government has today decided that the varroa bee mite will be managed in the South Island, the Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton said today. "We think it best to focus efforts on managing this pest, given the costs of attempting to remove it from the Nelson area and the high probability it will re-infest the South Island in a relatively short period of time.

The Government appreciates that varroa is a significant pest that will have lasting impacts on the beekeeping industry and all the South Island industries that rely on bees for pollination. However, given that varroa is well established in the North Island, it is not possible to maintain South Island immunity indefinitely.

Therefore the impacts will be endured by these industries in the long-term regardless of whether we attempt to remove the current infestation in Nelson or manage the situation by slowing its spread. Affected industries and the Government had hoped that there would be a longer delay in varroa reaching the South Island.

Today the Government approved $3.2 million over the next four years to fund a management programme to slow the spread of the varroa mite within the South Island. This funding comes on top of around $2.4 million spent last financial year on responding to the Nelson varroa find.

"Established varroa populations have never been eradicated from any country anywhere in the world. While it is considered technically possible to remove varroa from small areas, there is never a guarantee of success. The recent find of varroa at Pelorus Bridge - believed to have been there since February/March and outside the original incursion site in Nelson found in June - shows how difficult it is to be sure that all infested sites are found and can be totally destroyed.

"The cost of attempting removal of varroa from the Nelson area was estimated to be around $9.5 million dollars. This estimate includes compensating beekeepers and horticulturalists for the likely harm caused to their businesses by movement controls and the destruction of hives. The cost of attempting to remove varroa is large both in terms of Government spending and the impacts on the local beekeeping and horticultural industry, and is not justified given the risk that it may not be successful and that re-incursions are considered inevitable.

"The Government remains committed to New Zealand's biosecurity. Recent biosecurity funding of $11.81 million over two years has been allocated to ongoing management of Didymosphenia geminata (didymo), Styela clava (sea squirt), and Painted Apple Moth, not to mention action over red imported fire ants, southern saltmarsh mosquitos and avian influenza."

Funding of $525,000 over three years from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Sustainable Farming Fund is currently going towards a project on the development of technologies for the control of varroa, along with $103,022 towards strategic planning for pollination needs in export crops. To date the Government has spent approximately $11.5 million on responding to varroa since the initial incursion in 2000, including $3 million spent between 2000 and 2005 keeping varroa out of the South Island

"The Government will investigate potential research proposals for the beekeeping industry and pollination dependent primary sectors in light of the presence of varroa in the South Island.

"The Government also appreciates the cooperation being demonstrated by those affected with the varroa incursion in the Nelson area. Ongoing management will involve continued cooperation between South Island beekeepers and Biosecurity New Zealand so that we may slow its spread in the most practical and cost-effective manner possible," Jim Anderton said

ENDS

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