Varroa Mite Threat to Honeybees

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:33): (263) My question is to the Minister for Agriculture. The destructive bee parasite varroa mite was detected six days ago at Euston, with 30,000 hives being held in the emergency eradication zone awaiting destruction and over 100,000 hives which cannot be moved in the surveillance emergency zone. As pollination of the almond orchards has concluded, these bees are now starving and bee health is deteriorating. Minister, with almost a week passing since varroa mite was detected on our border, when will beekeepers in the northern Victorian area be provided with urgently needed food and hive miticide strips to avoid a widespread outbreak in Victoria?

Gayle TIERNEY (Western Victoria – Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture) (12:34): I thank the member for raising this issue today. This is
an issue that has been taking a lot of time and resources in relation to Agriculture Victoria. It is a complex area, and it is very heavily reliant on expert, guarded advice. We have got, fortunately, some very highly skilled scientific staff at Agriculture Victoria that provide exceptional advice. I can give the member the latest update in relation to the varroa mite disease. On 29 August the national expert technical committee, which guides the varroa response plan, met and agreed that moving hives
out of the current surveillance zone, which is the outer area of the emergency zone within the almond growing regions near the Murray, was a safe measure consistent with the national response plan. This means that hives will be moving away from concentrations currently in the Sunraysia region on both sides of the border. The expert advice is that this will reduce the consequences of the current varroa outbreak in New South Wales and reduce the risk of it spreading to Victoria. Agriculture Victoria is putting robust measures in place to ensure that this is done as safely as possible. A permit system to facilitate movement from the surveillance zone with increased biosecurity requirements has been established. This stipulates the strict testing and reporting requirements and follow-up surveillance and testing after hives have been moved. To coordinate this response Agriculture Victoria has deployed staff into the state biosecurity coordination centre and a forward command post, which is supporting on-ground work by the state quarantine response team, which consists of Agriculture Victoria staff and industry and recreational beekeepers.
This is essentially the situation as we know it at the moment. It is moving quite fast, and of course all of the states are in communication 24/7, but it was the meeting that was held on the 29th that placed these new arrangements so that we can deal with the current situation.

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:37): I thank the minister for her response. The varroa mite certainly came to Australia over 14 months ago, we know, into New South Wales ports, and it has
been detected, as you rightly say and I have discussed, on our Victorian border. You have spoken about the national plan, but farmers in that region are very concerned that there is no specific Victorian varroa mite action plan, and I therefore ask you: why haven’t you in that 14-month period actually established a Victorian action plan to protect the livelihoods of the beekeepers and the crops they pollinate?

Gayle TIERNEY (Western Victoria – Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture) (12:37): I have taken you through exactly what is happening. I could go into further detail, but clearly from your question I would suggest – and I will put out the offer – that you get a departmental briefing.