Beekeeper registration fees will remain at current levels for at least the next two years
NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair announced the fee freeze during a meeting with the industry's three peak bodies, the ABA, NSW Apiarists' Association and North Shore Beekeepers' Association. The groups, which together represent more than 2000 of the state's beekeepers, had strongly objected to the DPI's earlier proposal to impose a sharp increase for small scale beekeepers. Such an increase would have run counter to moves in other states where beekeepers with a handful of hives are allowed to register for free.
The decision by the minister came after the ABA, NSWAA and NSBKA had already met with senior managers at the DPI and the minister's advisors to set out their strong opposition to DPI proposals. In June, the DPI had flagged that it intended to do away with the existing registration fee tiers, instead imposing a flat fee for all beekeepers regardless of the number of hives they manage. This would have hit amateurs the hardest – those currently claiming a concessional rate would have seen fees leap from $40 to $90 for two years.
All three beekeeper groups and the DPI are in common agreement that boosting the proportion of amateurs who register is crucial for food security. "Increasing fees would have been counterproductive to this," says ABA President Bruce White, "so it's heartening to hear the minister call for closer cooperation and communication between the DPI and the beekeeping community. Together, I'm sure we can find solutions that will work for everyone."
During the two-year fee freeze the DPI will set up a consultative committee made up of beekeeper, industry and government representatives to improve communications and develop long term strategies to ensure healthy bee populations in NSW and across the country.
The ABA had surveyed members about biosecurity earlier in the year, and, based on that feedback has been pushing for free registration for beekeepers with one to five hives as a way of encouraging all beekeepers to 'join the system'. The Apiarists' Association also supports free registration for amateurs. In fact, the NSWAA felt so strongly that small scale beekeepers must be given every incentive to register that they had supported higher fees for commercial beekeepers to help cover any revenue shortfall.
Close cooperation between the three peak beekeeping groups undoubtedly helped lobbying efforts. Free registration for small scale beekeepers remains a top priority as a way of encouraging new beekeepers to lodge their details with the DPI and become a part of a more informed and connected beekeeping community.
Representing the ABA at the meeting were president Bruce White, biosecurity officer Doug Purdie and secretary Dave Wilson. Minister Blair was accompanied by senior policy advisor Hollie Baillieu, Scott Barrett of DPI Policy and Programs and Bruce Christie, DPI Deputy Director of General Biosecurity and Food Safety. Shona Blair represented the NSWAA and Michael Syme, the NSBKA.