Beekeepers who may have missed earlier consultation rounds will have another avenue to have their opinions heard on the future of the National Pest Management Plan (PMP) for American foulbrood (AFB) this winter.
Industry body New Zealand Beekeeping Inc (NZBI) plans to run their own consultation process to shape a proposal they will present to the Minister for Primary Industries regarding the PMP for the bacterial disease of beehives. The AFB Management Agency is already two rounds into an extensive consultation process which began in June 2021 and is expected to wrap up this winter.
However, NZBI president Jane Lorimer believes a better feel for beekeeper opinion on the Plan will be gained by adding their consultation and proposal alongside that of the Agency.
“There are some areas where we feel beekeepers are not getting good opportunity to offer input into the Agency’s review of the PMP, primarily because of the timing of it. The timing of the consultation was terrible along with the amount of time given for beekeepers to respond following the webinar series – in one instance three days," Lorimer says.
The AFB PMP is due to expire on April 1 2023 and thus the industry has been asked to consult and provide feedback to the Minister prior to that date. The PMP is what holds beekeepers accountable for the identification and destruction of infected beehives, to prevent the spread of disease.
The Agency has communicated their consultation process with beekeepers in a wide range of methods, including emails direct to registered beekeepers. They are partway through three rounds of consultation, which began with an initial call for feedback via on online survey June 24-July 11 last year. Responses from that first round were collated into a 16-page booklet titled Let’s Talk: The Next 10 years of the PMP for AFB elimination, which beekeepers consulted on in November and December via a series of webinars and seven roadshows from Whangarei to Invercargill. Now, feedback from those meetings will be presented and detailed changes proposed before a final round of consultation in June and July, then the Agency’s proposal is to be presented to the Minister.
“They (The Agency) might argue they have done enough, but when it is the beekeepers’ PMP, I think they could have done more to consider what was the most appropriate time to call for feedback. The process itself may be ok, but if the timing of that process is poor it makes the outcome of the consultation questionable,” Lorimer says.
“When they started the webinar series to discuss the PMP, it was at commercial beekeepers’ busiest time. I believe they have only got a small proportion of beekeepers responding to their consultation.”
The first round of consultation from the Agency garnered responses from 434 beekeepers and Agency national compliance manager Clifton King says he is surprised at the decision of NZBI, being that, “the Management Agency is genuinely committed to engaging with beekeepers, listening to their feedback and addressing that, to then put a proposal to the Minister together”.
King agreed that having any consultation during a busy period for commercial beekeepers, such as November and December are, is not ideal. However, the alternative was to drag the process out another six months and then end up with the final round of consultation in spring 2022 anyway.
“That is just substituting one problem for another,” he says.
NZBI’s process of consultation is yet to be fully finalised, but will make available to beekeepers a consultation document (available via www.nzbeekeeping.co.nz/afbpmp
-review and potentially direct delivery), telephone discussion and likely in person meetings as well as webinars. After that, they expect some follow up discussion before a draft proposal is circulated for final feedback and adjusting. A proposal will then be presented to the Minister.
“It’s good to have a variety of opinions and some diverse feedback,” Lorimer explains.
“If the two reviews come up with similar ideas of how the AFB PMP could be improved, then that will give strength to the review. If they are dis-similar, then MPI and the Minister will need to consider the different approaches being advocated and the reasoning behind those differences.”