Dr R.M. Goodwin
Dr R.M. Goodwin
As a scientist I have an extensive background in American Foul Brood (AFB):
- Led a 10-year AFB research programme.
- Given many lectures on AFB both in New Zealand and in many other countries.
- Co-authored the AFB manual.
- Consulted on the development of AFB programmes in other countries.
- Provided the goal for the current New Zealand Pest Management Strategy (PMS) programme and provided technical support for the team that put the strategy together in the late 1990s. Along with Cliff Van Eaton, I carried out the consultation for the original PMS.
- Continued involvement in several of the PMS reviews.
In this submission I will endeavour to address concerns regarding PMS policy, as well as some concerns regarding operational matters.
The Management Agency was originally set up with two committees; one to deal with policy and the second to deal with operation issues. The goal of the group was to eradicate AFB from New Zealand. Within 3 years the policy committee decided it could deal with both operational and policy matters, and the committees were disbanded. Unfortunately, the Management Agency then concentrated primarily on operational issues, such as default AFB hive inspections. The focus on operational matters has been to the determent of the aims the strategy. The decision to disband the committees has also influenced the way that the original strategy has been implemented.
The PMS needs to be careful not to fall into the same trap that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) programme fell into between 1960 and 1990. Similar programme errors have been made in other countries. The MAF programme did carry out some education, but their primary objective was to find and burn AFB hives faster than beekeepers could infect and create new AFB hives. They failed to achieve their objective. The AFB levels increased from 0.2% to 1.2% over the course of the programme. Generally, programmes like this do not have the funding necessary to successfully implement this approach.
The New Zealand PMS was set up to assist beekeepers to eradicate AFB and not to try controlling AFB for beekeepers, as the MAF programme tried to do. The aim was to change beekeeper behaviour about eradicating AFB. This approach was chosen because all hives are currently inspected for AFB by beekeepers, although some do a better job than others. All AFB is spread because of what beekeepers have or have not done. A small average change in beekeeper behaviour can have a large impact on AFB levels. The intention was to train and engage beekeepers so that they would think about AFB whenever they opened a hive.
As part of the programme, we were going to use four strategy tools to change behaviour. These were:
- Having a big idea: Promoting a big idea is recognised as a significant tool for changing behaviour. The big idea for the strategy was to eradicate AFB from New Zealand.
- Comment: The big idea has not been promoted as well as it could be. To assist in changing beekeeper behaviour, consideration should be given to re-emphasizing the idea that we can eradicate AFB from New Zealand. The use of QPCR in the programme could be used to help refresh the big idea of AFB eradication.
- The legal requirements on management of AFB.
- Comment: These appear fit for purpose.
- Implementing an education programme: The PMS included a strong education programme. The content of the PMS was voted on and notified by the Minister.
- Comment: The education programme has not been carried out as was described in the PMS. The main reason was because of poor advice from MAF at that time. During the development of the Order in Council, MAF advised that we did not need to include education in the Order in Council as we did not need legal powers to carry out education. MAF however did consider education to be important and for this reason it was included in the PMS that was notified by the Minister at the time. But with subsequent changes in MAF staff and the loss of knowledge associated with this, the Ministry came to the opinion that the Management Agency can only do what is in the Order in Council. This opinion should be argued against as education is a vital tool for the implementation of the AFB Pest Management Strategy. The AFB Recognition and Destruction courses have been carried out and are probably fit for purpose. But the end of course exam does need to be reviewed.
- In the notified PMS there were also to be AFB workshops for approved commercial beekeepers to address issues on how to eliminate AFB from commercial beekeeping businesses. They were also to assist beekeepers with their implementation of AFB eradication plans. The workshops should include discussion about the cost benefit of successfully eradicating AFB. There was supposed to be 13 of these workshops each year, that approved beekeepers would be required to attend. Over the last 20 years there should have been about 250 of these workshops. These have not been carried out even though beekeepers were levied for the implementation of the notified PMS which included these workshops. This has been a major failing with the PMS. These courses are important as they specifically dealt with the group of beekeepers who own most of the hives and consequently own most of the AFB hives. Consideration should be given to running these workshops for commercial beekeepers.
- Ownership: Engaging the industry to own and address AFB management.
- Comment: This is an important tool for changing behaviour. Between 1960 and 1990 the program was a MAF programme and beekeepers considered that AFB eradication was a MAF responsibility. If AFB was discussed, the discussion was usually about what MAF was or was not doing. Consequently, AFB levels increased from 0.2% to1.2%. However, when the then National Beekeepers Association was running the programme between 1990 and 2000, and the development of the PMS was occurring, the discussions in beekeeper meetings was all about what they as beekeepers should be doing to eradicate AFB from their own beekeeping outfits and New Zealand. AFB levels decreased during this time not just because of the education programme, but also because of consequential growing awareness by beekeepers that beekeepers are the only people who can eradicate AFB.
- Unfortunately, since then, in the minds of many beekeepers, the PMS Management Agency appear to have taken over the responsibility for AFB control. Discussion in beekeeper meetings around AFB now, is too often around what the Management Agency is or is not doing. The industry has regressed back to the time when MAF was running the program.
- The industry needs to refocus, and beekeepers once again need to be part of the solution. The options are:
- Facilitate the running of local AFB eradication programmes in partnership with beekeeping groups. The low hanging fruit are hobby groups who can be encouraged to eradicate AFB from their urban areas. Hamilton has attempted to do this with little expense to, and only small amount of assistance from the PMS Management Agency. Unfortunately, the AFB Management Agency missed the opportunity to be seen as an equal partner in the eradication attempt. Whether Hamilton succeed in the AFB eradication or not, is of lesser importance than the Management Agency taking the opportunity of promoting the idea that AFB is a beekeeper problem and that the Management Agency is there to empower beekeepers to carry out their eradication activities. The PMS Management Agency should be using these opportunities to advertise itself, and to communicate its role of eradicating AFB from New Zealand. They should provide instructions on how local eradications can be carried out, instructions on handling the media and how the Agency can partner with the eradication programmes. The agency should consider actively promoting and supporting eradication programmes in urban and other areas.
- Consider taking professional people management advice on other methods of changing beekeeper behaviour and engagement. In other industries collaborative programmes promoting active participation of affected parties, at all levels, to achieve outcomes desired by all parties, have proven to be successful.
- QPCR: QPCR is a tool that is currently being used for honey. This tool could be used to reduce errors resulting from failing to visually identify affected hives. A contract should be let to determine if it can be used by beekeepers to test bees from hives for AFB and how many hives can be composited in a test. The Hamilton AFB eradication assumed 10 hives, but the actual number needs to be determined so it can be used by beekeepers in their eradication programmes. Consideration should be given to developing QPCR into a test that can be used by beekeepers to support visual identification of affected hives, and eradication of AFB.
In summary the following actions are strongly recommended:
- Separation of strategic development from operational implementation so that the strategic objectives drive the operational programmes.
- Widely communicate the big idea that AFB can be eradicated if the industry commits to doing so.
- Implement the PMS commercial beekeeper workshops.
- Facilitation of industry / Management Agency collaboration, communication, and engagement.
- Support and encourage local eradication projects.
- Introduction of tools to aid in the identification of AFB affected hives and apiaries.