Seven months on from receiving a Seeds of Renewal grant, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott recently caught up with Fiona Chambers, CEO of the Wheen Bee Foundation to find out what the grant meant for them.
Shayne Elliott: I understand the grant your charity received is being used to further support the work you’re doing conserving the green carpenter bee on Kangaroo Island. What difference does a grant like this make?
Fiona Chambers: A huge difference! The green carpenter bee is a native bee rather than a honeybee, which means it’s not managed by beekeepers the way honeybees are. It’s often very difficult to get funding for native bees and native conservation type work.
It is an iconic native bee to Australia and only exists on Kangaroo Island and a very small pocket in the Blue Mountains. It has been lost and become extinct to all the other parts of Australia where it used to live. The Seeds of Renewal grant has been so important in raising awareness about the importance of these native bees, not just for food security but for ecosystem health and the role they play as pollinators in our native environment.
Shayne Elliott: Kangaroo Island was severely impacted by the bushfires earlier this year, how damaging was that to your bee program?
Fiona Chambers: It has been absolutely devastating. At the time the bushfires hit, we had about 450 artificial nesting substrates out in the national park; 95 per cent of that park was lost. In survey work we’ve done since the fires, less than one hundred nests were found in the remnant areas and in places where the program wasn’t functioning. It’s meant the urgency of this program has been stepped up, it’s just multiplied.
Shayne Elliott: There is quite a concerning decline, isn’t there, in the number of bees globally?
Fiona Chambers: Yes, it’s multifactorial but a lot of it is driven by a thing called the Varroa mite.
Australia is in a really fortunate position to be the only continent in the world that doesn’t have this mite. So our biosecurity efforts to keep the mite out of Australia are really important because the damage to not just our bee keeping industry but all of our pollination-dependent industries, our agricultural and horticultural industries, will be just devastating.
Shayne Elliott: Part of our purpose at ANZ is to shape a world where communities thrive, it’s great to hear the grant has helped the When Bee Foundation.
Fiona Chambers: We have seen bee awareness certainly increasing in the community. We're excited to be launching a new program in spring 2020 to help guide community replanting efforts following bushfires. We're working to ensure people are thinking "trees for bees" and planting to support our wild pollinators.
Seeds of Renewal is such a fantastic program because of the way in which it has really united the community. When I went to Kangaroo Island and talked to the stakeholders who I thought would be interested, it was amazing how they came together to back and support this, and it brought together community members that in other situations, would not talk to each other in the way they did because they really did unite and get behind this project.
I'd highly recommend communities apply for a Seeds of Renewal Grant. It was a simple process and the support provided by ANZ and FRRR has been fantastic.