Page 3829 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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Registration numbers will be issued to beekeepers and these must be marked on hive brood boxes. The brood box is the part of the hive containing the queen and brood—eggs, larvae and pupae—and is most at risk of disease or pest invasion. Numbering of brood boxes assists in the identification of hive owners if necessary but, more importantly, contributes to what is in effect a national stock identification scheme.

The identification, via numbering systems, of brood boxes is mandatory in all other Australian jurisdictions. The purpose of brood box identification is threefold: firstly, to trace the movement of brood boxes, including cross-jurisdictional, so that disease outbreaks can be tracked and biosecurity incidents managed; secondly, tracing items in the case of theft, noting that hives may be kept in areas that are isolated and exposed to interference; and, thirdly, to enable the owners of abandoned or dumped brood boxes to be traced, which is important in situations where the abandonment is due to disease. The lack of an identification system in the ACT represents a potential area of risk to a national system of regulation, albeit implemented through individual jurisdictional legislation. In effect the ACT is a black spot in relation to national traceability of hive movement.

The bill I am introducing today corrects this anomaly and ensures that we can meet our obligations and duties under relevant national biosecurity agreements. It will be an offence not to register and the penalty is five penalty units. Complaints of non-compliance can be investigated by authorised officers under the Animal Diseases Act.

There is currently a code of practice for beekeeping in residential areas of the ACT which I made in November 2014 under section 143 of the Domestic Animals Act 2000. The code sets minimum standards for beekeepers in the management of their hives. The code is part of the municipal response to increased beekeeping in urban and residential environments. In addition it will facilitate healthy, well-managed hives, which is the best defence for a bee colony attacked by a pest or disease.

In Australia bees are classified as livestock. In the ACT, since the repeal of the Apiaries Act and previous to the release of the code of practice last year, bees were not legally classified. As a result of issuing the code of practice under the Domestic Animals Act, bees were statutorily recognised as domestic animals. This was always viewed as a temporary measure until the policy issue of beekeeping registration could be properly considered and determined, and a more suitable place for a statutory beekeeping code created.

Introducing a legislatively based registration scheme provides the opportunity to place provisions for a code of practice for beekeeping into the Animal Diseases Act—a more appropriate location. With the implementation of the amendments in this bill bees will be correctly aligned with “stock” rather than as a domestic animal as currently occurs.

On commencement of the amendments proposed by the bill, I will reissue the existing code under the new provisions of the Animal Diseases Act. The code responds to issues about bee and hive health and husbandry as well as animal nuisance. It is not a panacea for the control of disease but is part of a responsible approach to ensuring informed beekeeping practices in the territory.

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