Petition Worksafe to enforce the NZ laws protecting bees and Health and Safety Reps

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New Zealand Law protects bees (and beekeepers) and Health and Safety Representatives. 

LEGISLATION

Worksafe NZ are the guardians of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Regulations.  Under this legislation it is a criminal offence to spray products which are eco-toxic around bees (Hazard class 9.4).  Worksafe also has legislation which enables them to fine anyone who threatens or takes actions against a Health and Safety Representative. 

Background/Summary

A specialist beekeeper had their apiary deliberately vandalised (beehives moved 100 meters and dumped) and toxic chemicals applied (Insecticide classified as a 9.4 Hazard) by an individual who was known to her.  The ex-family member sent a text message to the beekeeper to tell them they had done this. For 5 months they repeatedly gave the name of a non-existent product "Mortensens" and refused to send a photo or provide the container(s) that were used. The Health and Safety Representative was mandated by Worksafe to contact the ex-family member despite that this would also place her at risk (given there had been on-going police involvement at the address).  The Health and Safety Rep (HSR) requested the information formally, and was subsequently threatened, harassed and defamed with her other employers. She is now seeking a Restraining Order against the individual.  After the defamatory communication (5 incidences) the vandal has verbally admitted to what was sprayed in a Disputes Tribunal hearing (small claims court), but refuses to put this in writing or say exactly where she sprayed in the 50% of the 4 Bay pole shed. The chemical that she admits to spraying is classified as a 9.4 Hazard - which carries the warning "DO NOT SPRAY NEAR BEES". 

Worksafe has repeatedly been asked for assistance to bring the vandal into compliance in order to make the workplace safe for the beekeeper and her workers and her daughter and the bees - and in order to clean up (if that is even possible - difficult given wax and wood are highly absorbant). Worksafe have ignored all requests for help - both from the chemical standpoint and to assist the HSR who had the actions taken against them. Worksafe has the power to do both. They have done nothing but say they are 'too busy'. 

MAIN INCIDENT

A specialist beekeeper drove their daughter to school and while she was out on a 30 minute round trip, she received a text message from an ex family member to say her hives had been moved and her apiary and queen rearing and storage (4 bay pole shed) had been sprayed with 'INSECTICIDE'. 

The unlawful moving of the hives (not all were closed) and the spraying was deliberate and planned. 

The ex-family member wouldn't say what type of insecticide had been used. The ex-family member said spray had been applied to beehive entry holes.

Just to be clear, the dispute was not about money - nothing was owed by the beekeeper (though she had made loans of thousands of dollars to the family member which all remain unpaid). The beekeeper ran this operation entirely on her own and it was her primary source of income. The ex-family member was never involved in beekeeping and worked off-site as a white collar professional and is a member of several professional bodies. The text message was sent from the ex-family members phone, and she has admitted to police and others that she did spray insecticide.  

The beekeeper immediately attended the workplace/apiary accompanied by police. They found the ex-family member leaving the site. When confronted the culprit said she was allergic to bees.  The police suggested that the culprit might just be using bullying tactics and might not have actually sprayed. 

The police and beekeeper found the culprit had moved hives 100m. This would be potentially lethal to the nucleus (small) hives (as it was late in the season - not much new brood) as the foraging bees wouldn't find their way back in the new location. Bees were flying back to location of the original hives. The hives couldn't be put back without risking further insecticide contamination. 

It appears that the text message was sent to prevent the beekeeper from carrying out any further work, and to intimidate/bully the beekeeper (since the family relationship had ended just weeks earlier.) Unfortunately this was not the first time police had been called to the address. The culprit gave the name of a non-existent insecticide for five months, defying Worksafe protocol in the process and flouting maximum fines of $55,000. This prevented informed clean up, testing or prosecution. 

The culprit then made serious threats in writing which were followed by serious actions against the Health and Safety Representative (HSR). The threats and actions mentioned the Worksafe protocols so there was no question that the culprit was communicating the threats and actions in an attempt to bully the HSR to drop her legitimate enquiries. 

With the threat of expensive testing hanging overhead the culprit has now named an actual product, perhaps to avoid liability for what would be a costly testing exercise to scan for a wide range of chemicals.

The product sprayed is classified as 9.4 by the Environmental Protection Authority.  It is now up to Worksafe NZ to investigate and uphold the NZ Law. 

Worksafe has said they only have time to deal with life threatening situations to humans and that they have to prioritise their limited time. Worksafe have not yet followed up the threats or the actual harassment and actions taken against the Health and Safety Officer (in writing). The letters written by the culprit to the HSR clearly show an attempt to bully them out of doing their job to demand, as is their legal right to do, details of what was sprayed. The letters have formed part of a harassment case which the NZ Courts have so far upheld, but at the HSR's expense - when this rightly could fall to Worksafe to not only enforce but also to levy fines against the culprit to deter this behaviour in future. 

While most insecticides would obviously be lethal to bees, only certain ones are classified as 9.4 highly eco-toxic.  They are available for purchase over the counter, but come with a warning "DO NOT SPRAY NEAR BEES". They also have eco-toxic symbols and warnings prominently featured on the cans. 

The Environmental Protection Authority has confirmed that the product used (a variety of Mortein Fast Knockdown) is a 9.4 Hazard - Toxic to terrestrial invertebrates (eg insects - bees). 

Regulation 49 prohibits the spraying of class 9.4 hazards (certain specified insecticides which are eco-toxic) around bees. 

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2001/0117/latest/DLM39614.html

 49 Use of substances ecotoxic to terrestrial invertebrates
(1)A person must not apply a class 9.4 substance in an application area—

(a) if bees are foraging in the area and the substance is in a form in which bees are likely to be exposed to it; or
(b) to any plant or tree that is likely to be visited by bees if—

(i) the plant or tree is in open flower or part bloom; or
(ii) the plant or tree is likely to flower after application of the substance within a period specified by the Authority.
(2) The period specified by the Authority must not be longer than 10 days.

FURTHER INFORMATION REGARDING DISPUTES TRIBUNALS

The Disputes Tribunal have ruled that it is necessary to prove that the insecticide actually killed the bees (!!!) This is shocking in light of the fact that the particular insecticide is so lethal to bees and so absorbent in wood that it is specifically banned from use around bees. The Disputes Tribunal has not  yet accepted that moving small queen rearing nucleus hives (having already been moved 100 meters by the culprit, to a less than desirable location, under urgency to get them away from the insecticide had a negative effect on their ability to survive. The Disputes Tribunal has not ordered costs for the equipment (wood, wax, frames etc) sprayed, as they also seem unable to understand that a farmer should not be expected to re use farming equipment which had come in contact with lethal chemicals around their animals - so why should a beekeeper be expected to carry on with its use? 

 



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