Busy Bee still buzzing in the cold morning air.
Busy Bee still buzzing in the cold morning air. Samantha Dick

Leading beekeeper fined over threatening disease

A HIGHLY respected Northern Rivers beekeeper has been fined and ordered to pay court costs after failing to properly notify authorities of the presence of a serious disease in three of his hives.

Bentley beekeeper Geoffrey Johnston Manning, 78, was served a court attendance notice after inspectors from NSW Biosecurity and Food Safety Compliance inspected his hives on April 20 last year and identified signs of American foulbrood.

The disease is regarded as one of the most dire threats to the $4-6 billion Australian apiary industry, and the NSW Department of Industry enforces strict regulations to contain it.

"The presence of scale is indicative of AFB having been present and observable in the hive for more than 30 days," it was noted.

Mr Manning told the inspectors he had inspected the hives about three days prior and had found the AFB and had irradiated the infected hives, but hadn't notified an inspector until they rang the night before the visit.

He appeared before Lismore Local Court on Monday this week where he entered a guilty plea to the charge of failing to comply with subsection 1 of the Apiaries Act 1985 relating to notifying disease.

The veteran beekeeper of almost 50 years also tendered several character references which testified to his strong reputation in the local industry.

President of the North Coast branch of the NSW Apiarists' Association Barry Watts said Manning was a "dependable member" of the industry who had promoted "responsible biosecurity practices among beekeepers".

Another referee, Bruce White OAM wrote that Mr Manning had made a "very significant" contribution to the survival of beekeeping and food security on the North Coast, and had even featured in a video about the industry.

A third referee Brian Window said Manning had "always promoted responsible beekeeping" in an industry with "more than its share of what I call cowboys".

"Why chase someone who is doing an excellent job in supporting the regulations both in his own work and with other beekeepers?" Mr Window wrote.

Court papers recorded that in 2008 Mr Manning was issued a warning notice for failing to notify of American foulbrood.

Magistrate David Heilpern on Monday ordered Manning to pay a $200 fine and $3200 in legal costs.

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