Page 3826 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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that the owners of hives can be identified when and if requested to do so. This initiative will ensure that in the event of a bee biosecurity incident there can be fast and effective location of beekeepers and their hives in the ACT. This in turn will lead to the better management and planning of bee biosecurity responses, incidents and risks.

In introducing this bill I want to provide background to this issue and provide some context as to why bee biosecurity has become a matter of general interest and an increasing area of environmental concern. I will also touch on the very strong obligation that the territory has under national agreements to work cooperatively and collaboratively on biosecurity with other jurisdictions. Lastly, I will talk about the beekeeping registration scheme that the bill creates.Over the past 10 years a major threat to the worldwide bee population is the spread of the Asian mite Varroa destructor and the role of this mite in spreading viruses. In 1990 when the mite arrived in the United Kingdom it was implicated in halving the bee population in that country. Within a year of the mite arriving in Hawaii in 2007, research on one island found that 65 per cent of all hives had been wiped out.

While there is some controversy about the cause of colony collapse disorder, where worker bees disappear, leading to the collapse of a bee colony, some commentators also attribute Varroa as a contributory cause. At this time Australia is one of the last remaining areas in the world free of Varroa. It has invaded New Zealand and Indonesia and is of considerable biosecurity concern. Early detection and monitoring of beehives is seen as the best means of control.

Varroa mites attach themselves to adult bees and drain fluids from the bee for sustenance, leaving open wounds. The compromised adult bees are more prone to infections and a number of viruses can be spread in the process. A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a colony.

Varroa and the viruses it spreads are not the only bee biosecurity threat in Australia. As with other Australian jurisdictions, the ACT’s Animal Diseases Act lists over 10 bee pathogen and pest threats that have been declared as notifiable, including Varroa. An outbreak of any notifiable threat could spark a biosecurity incident response.

So why are bee biosecurity and the prevention and management of bee pests and diseases so important? Pre-emptive management action is critical. Waiting until infection occurs is not really an option, particularly given the inevitability of disease or pest attack. It is likely, for example, that Varroa will reach Australia in the next few years, no matter how hard we work to prevent this.

Prevention and control through the establishment of systems and mechanisms to minimise damage in the event of a disease or pest outbreak are critical. Knowing where the risk is and how a pathogen or pest is spreading are important tools in managing a biosecurity incident. This is also an important issue because the impact of reduced bee numbers would be significant, some say catastrophic, because bees are the key insect pollinator of plants. The environment would be significantly damaged if the number of bees was so reduced that plant pollination was affected.

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