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Government Failure Sinks Varroa Eradication Plan

Government Failure Sinks Varroa Eradication Plan

The failure by Biosecurity NZ to arrange proper clearance from the German makers of the insecticide central to any varroa bee mite eradication plan has now sunk the possibility of eradicating the pest in the South Island, Green Party Conservation Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

Biosecurity Minister Jim Anderton has said the focus would now be on slowing the spread of the varroa mite in the South Island, after the discovery of further infestations in the Nelson region and following further consultation with beekeeper organizations.

"Ever since the varroa bee mite showed up years ago in the North Island, it has become accepted by all parties that the insecticide Fipronil is the best tool of eradication, because it so effectively targets the mite. Federated Farmers say they were informed in 2000 by Biosecurity NZ that Fipronil was to be part of any eradication plan," Mrs Turei says.

"Last October, Biosecurity NZ - in unison with local beekeepers and the South Island Varroa Action Group - was due to launch an eradication attempt to lay baits laced with Fipronil to kill all the feral bees in the Nelson region.

"Belatedly, Biosecurity NZ thought to re-check whether they had authority to use Fipronil for this purpose. In New Zealand, Fipronil is registered only for use on dogs and cats, to eradicate fleas. BASF, the German chemical company that makes the insecticide, refused permission- both because they felt liable for any unforeseen outcomes from such ' off-label' use, and because they reportedly wished to avoid negative publicity in Europe as bee killers.

"It seems utterly incredible that Biosecurity NZ should have known for years, long before the varroa bee mite ever reached fhe South Island that Fipronil was central to any effective eradication plan - and even entered into a plan to use it in Nelson - without getting the necessary rights to use it in that context, and without having any fallback option," Mrs Turei says.

"Thanks to this bungle, the best hope of eradicating this pest from the South Island has now been lost, and the livelihoods of South Island bee-keepers put further at risk.

"Such mistakes suggest that New Zealand's problem is not so much with border control - but with internal security, once a pest has arrived. The clumsy handling of the didymo and varroa bee mite infestations show we seem unable to co-ordinate a speedy and effective response to biosecurity problems once they emerge.

"Biosecurity NZ owes an explanation to bee-keepers in Nelson, and throughout the South Island, about its handling of the Fipronil issue."

ENDS

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