NZBI Offers Public Brief to New Government
New Zealand Beekeeping Inc (NZBI) is not waiting for a new government to be sworn in before making the desires of beekeepers known to those in power. The industry body has drawn up a four-page public brief, which they say will be presented to both National and Act parties, outlining changes required to move the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) towards providing a “competent, legitimate and efficient” service to beekeepers.
Representing “primarily small to mid-size beekeeping businesses”, NZBI’s Apiculture Briefing conveys their analysis of the state of the industry, before offering an agenda of five key recommendations to New Zealand’s incoming government.
Assessing the industry as “shrinking and economically distressed”, the briefing introduces a “destructive combination of industry structure and politics” combined with “poor regulatory management by MPI”, plus serious biosecurity risks. All of which need a new approach by government and industry, say the beekeeping body.
Summarising that “we need bees, bees need beekeepers”, NZBI’s brief will leave the incoming minister in no doubt about the value of the role beekeepers play, while also establishing the recent failings of the industry. From pointing out that pollination is being adversely affected as hive numbers fall back, to establishing some of the leading reasons for the decline (honey returns below cost of production, larger firms squeezing smaller, and successive failures by government and industry groups pertaining to mānuka definitions and protections), NZBI’s brief attempts to explain the recent “boom to bust” of the honey industry.
The governance structure of the American Foulbrood Pest Management Agency has long been a concern of NZBI, who are opposed to Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) overseeing the Agency. The Apiculture Briefing points out that “AFB incidence is rising, as are levies, with steeply declining value for levy money invested” and implores the government to consider competing proposals to the 10-year Plan review lodged recently.
Another key bug-bear of the industry body – which was established as an alternate national beekeeping body soon after the National Beekeeping Association and Federated farmers beekeeping division merged to form ApiNZ in 2016 – is the too-frequent auditing requirements of Risk Management Plans for extracting and processing honey. The brief calls audits of plants which are not running at that time as “abusive” and which “operates against the public interest”.
On the topic of biosecurity, NZBI call it “the big unspoken issue” of the industry and that, while further incursions are inevitable, they have little confidence in MPI’s biosecurity operation, “which invests too little in border, and especially in vital pre-border checks, and places too much faith in its ability to respond once an incursion occurs”.
All in all, NZBI’s summary of the industry state of play leaves the incoming government with five key points which they can work together on to help improve MPI’s operations:
a. The industry is essential to the functioning of the rural economy and environment. There needs to be a clear senior point of contact in MPI for the industry to engage;
b. Biosecurity needs urgent review, more funding and a real check that MPI’s operation has thesense of urgency and the senior grip and authority needed. A rapidly changing climate means pests and diseases are on the move and we need to be ready;
c. MPI’s cost recovery system needs a thorough overhaul. MPI can’t be dependent on cost recovery from industries under pressure to pay for core functions. If that means a smaller, but better funded and more responsive department, so be it;
d. MPI’s reliance on levy or fee-funded agencies needs review. The AFB PMP Agency and AsureQuality are both examples where the agency uses the Crown’s powers and industry fees and levies to act in their own interest, not in the public interest. Actual poor performance is the result. The current decennial review of the AFB PMP should be seized as an opportunity;
e. Like many industries, there needs to be a workforce strategy. Skills are important, scarce and easily lost. Bees literally can’t look after themselves, and this is a sector where pressures can’t be relieved by immigration. The whole industry and MPI should be involved in this.