Industry body New Zealand Beekeeping Inc (NZBI) has wasted no time in opening up dialogue with the new government, with members of their executive council meeting with Minister of Agriculture Todd McClay, associate Minister Mark Patterson and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director general Ray Smith in December.
The Wellington meeting, attended by NZBI president Jane Lorimer and executive members Ian Fletcher and Cameron Martin came just weeks after the new government had been sworn in and after the industry body had presented them with a succinct brief – centred on five key points – pertaining to the state of apiculture in New Zealand.
Lorimer says they received a positive response from the MPs that received the brief and her team feels encouraged following the first up meeting with McClay.
“Going forward, if we continue to communicate like this, it should lead to a better understanding of our industry,” Lorimer says.
A win out of the meeting was a move from MPI to appoint Karen Adair, the current deputy director-general agriculture and investment services, as a sole contact within the Ministry for issues of apiculture – something that was top of NZBI’s wish list in their brief. In the past the lack of a contact point has held back the industry, especially when trying to get changes to compliance rules, Lorimer says.
“We have struggled, at times, to get continued discussion. A change of personal or something happens and we are set back. Whereas now, a single point of contact will hopefully make things better,” Lorimer says.
The National-led coalition government has a strong team to cover agriculture and primary industries, with McClay as minister backed by Nicola Grigg, Mark Patterson and Andrew Hoggard as associate ministers. While various sectors of the primary industry were delegated to each of the MPs, apiculture was missing from the attributions. However, NZBI are reporting that the minster himself has taken ownership of their sector.
“That is again a positive, that we have him to reach out to, if we don’t get traction through Karen Adair at MPI,” Lorimer says.
Also high up on the NZBI wish list was a review into compliance costs, and Lorimer says they appear to have got a start there.
“It looks like MPI will carry out a review of compliance costs and their cost recovery processes. We pointed out to the minister that export licenses for beekeepers had gone up from about $1000 to $2500 and the minister turned to Ray Smith from MPI and asked ‘have beekeepers got better value for this?’ then he turned to look to me and I said ‘no’,” Lorimer details.
A separate meeting with Patterson was held, while they hope to soon progress a meeting with Hoggard, who is also Minister for Biosecurity, an area which NZBI has also called for an urgent review of apiculture operations.
NZBI did not specifically raise the issue of a promise to the honey industry of $3million made by McClay in June last year, but Lorimer says they did outline the need for more funding for research projects within the industry.
After years of getting short shrift from Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor under various Labour-led governments, Lorimer says NZBI are heartened by the new minster’s attitude so far.
“It was good to have McClay listening and making some positive comments. He even said ‘we want you to be talking with one voice, but not necessarily as a totally united industry’. He could see value in us having a couple of industry bodies. That was refreshing, because previously we have been told by the minister we need to be one industry body and one voice,” Lorimer says.
While nothing substantial has yet eventuated, the NZBI president is hopeful.
“It’s an incredible change and it seems really, really positive that we will at least get a chance to review that [compliance]. What will end up happening, I don’t know, but at least it is a start.”