The announcement by the Queensland government this week that it was preparing to grant a 20-year extension to allow beekeeping to continue in national parks until 2044 has been welcomed by the industry.
Queensland's beekeepers had been calling for permanent access to the state's national parks to ensure the survival of their industry and the viability of the state's food production chain.
New Queensland Beekeepers Association president Jacob Stevens said this week's news, which had been an ALP election policy, was a welcome reprieve for the industry, which has been under severe pressure from drought and bushfires in recent years.
The move to amend the Nature Conservation Act early next year will formally extend beekeeping permits for a further 20 years in certain national parks that were created as part of the SEQ Forest Agreement in 1999.
Under the current Act apiarists were required to transition out of national parks by the end of 2024, but successive governments and the industry have been unable to find suitable alternative honey sites for beekeeping.
The industry had traditionally been conducted uninterrupted in state forests and forest reserves until the introduction of the SEQ Forestry Agreement consigned some state forests and forest reserves, containing 1088 apiary sites, into 49 national parks.
Queensland beekeepers have consistently warned their industry could be severely impacted if alternative sites for their hives could not be located between now and 2024.
Beekeeping services are a lynchpin for Queensland's multi-billion-dollar fruit and vegetable growing industry, with pollination services playing a critical role in each season's crop.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development Mark Furner said it was an important decision as the ability of the industry may be impacted if alternative sites could not be located between now and the end of next year.
"Amending the act will support the continuation of beekeeping in certain national parks while the government works with industry and other key stakeholders to identify alternative sites for the future relocation of beekeeping off national parks," he said, adding that hives wouldn't be allowed in national parks where it was not already authorised immediately before the land became national park.
Mr Stevens said the news was a step in the right direction, and would give them the chance to work together with the government to examine the overall ecological impact of bees.
"There's a lack of science to support any idea that bees are having a negative impact on native vegetation," he said, citing the 2019 state government review of the impact of bees on state forests, investigating their role in the spread of pathogens and the like.
"At the core, we rely more heavily than nearly any other primary industry on native vegetation being healthy.
"The agricultural and environment ministers have been very receptive and it's our plan now to sit down and develop a long-term solution.
"I won't be 50 by the time we're kicked out of national parks again."
Mr Stevens said after two of the toughest years beekeepers had ever faces, in 2018/19 and 2019/20, when they had to resort to carting water for their bees, exciting times were ahead, with options for their pollination services unprecedented.
According to secretary Jo Martin, on current trends, Queensland's beekeeping industry will need to increase in size by over one-third in the next decade, such is the demand from berry fruit, nut growers and horticulturalists for pollinating bees.
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