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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 May 2018) . . Page.. 1596 ..

the ACT government in cooperation with New South Wales this April, is another way we are raising the awareness of the community of the importance of bees in our economy and environment. The program encourages our beekeepers to use simple diagnostic tests to detect the presence of bee diseases, such as the Varroa mite.

Canberra is a leading city in sustainability. This means it uses resources wisely, it reduces waste and protects its environment which, in turn, takes care of its inhabitants. We are the bush capital and we enjoy the benefits of living in a city that is surrounded by parks and nature reserves and where our citizens have a strong garden city ethos. Bees, both native and European, are an important part of our natural and urban environment. Native bees have played an important part in our Indigenous heritage for thousands of years. They have played a part in their culture and provided nourishment as well as medicinal benefits and form part of their folklore.

Whilst keeping of honey bees provides many benefits, there are also potential risks to our natural areas where honey bees may impact on both flora and fauna and compete for hollows. Equally, European bees have been a valuable companion to people from around the world, and science is now discovering just how important their role is in the production of our food and how much at peril they are as their populations collapse globally. We cannot afford to lose our bees, and not just for their role as pollinators in our food production, as producers of honey or for their medical properties. They have intrinsic value as part of our environment and the web of life of which we are all a part.

We all know that the distinct buzzing sound of spring brings the knowledge that bees are among us in our trees and in our gardens. It means to many of us that they are at work preparing for what we all enjoy as the fruits and vegetables of their labour.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations) (4.07): I thank Ms Le Couteur for bringing forward this important matter of public importance. I know it is something in which many of my constituents in the electorate of Kurrajong and yours, Madam Assistant Speaker, have an interest. The status of Canberra as the bush capital and as a planned lived-in environment highlights the importance of considering how all forms of flora and fauna contribute to the rich diversity of our ecosystems and, more simply, make Canberra the place we all love.

One significant contributor to the ACT’s environment and economy is, as Ms Le Couteur highlights, the humble bee. Both wild bees and honey bees are an integral part of our ecosystem. Australia wide bees make an important contribution to our economy through honey and wax production and, of course, pollination services to the horticulture and cropping industries. A 2017 report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources noted that this value may be up to $4 billion per year. While other reports have found the economic value more difficult to quantify, we can all appreciate what honey bees do for our gardens and our agriculture.

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