Blue Tiger Butterfly

Pollinator Policy: Casting Our Net Across The World And Australia

Pollinators are Earth’s little champions. Bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators are key to the reproductive success of 75% of flowering plants around the world. They are integral to ecosystems, soil and water health. They ensure global crop productivity and nutritional security. And yet, we know pollinators are in trouble and their numbers are declining because of habitat loss, changes in land use, pesticides and climate change.

We, at PlantingSeeds Projects, are helping pollinators through our urban and regional regenerative B&B Highway initiative. By planting native and endemic flora, installing habitats such as stingless beehives and bird houses and offering educational resources and sessions to schools and other organisations, we help from the ground up through corridors of plantings and learnings.

However, what is happening from a top down perspective? How are our government bodies responding to the evidence of pollinator declines? What policies and frameworks are focusing on this hugely important issue?

We decided to take a deep dive into policies and frameworks to see if there are any best laid plans… We cast our net wide, internationally, and also examined State and Federal Australian responses. We found some far-reaching solutions - and many fragmentary approaches. We should probably warn you to buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Starting in australia

Across Australia, pollinators are sparsely littered throughout government-implemented policies and programs at both State and Federal levels. We scoured the Internet, using keywords and searching every corner of government websites and databases, for the mention of pollinators in reports, legislation and programs/activities. The gist of what we could find can be summed up as a bit of a stinger - a very high focus on the European honeybee.

While the European honeybee is estimated to be responsible for most crop pollination, is a prodigious producer of honey and is responsible for contributing around $60 to $65 million to the Australian economy each year, there are approximately 17,000 - 20,000 other bee species around the world, up to 2,000 Australian native bee species and some, like the Tetragonula carbonaria, are also major pollinators of certain crops. Additionally, there are a myriad of other pollinators - insects, birds and mammals. And they are key to biodiversity and ecosystem health. The beeline that policy pundits make to the honeybee ignores much of the story.

Some state and federal initiatives:

QLD: Importance of Flying Foxes

This program aims to protect these animals that live in densely human populated areas. The resource highlights the importance of these pollinators and outlines activities humans can take to protect the species.

WA: Managing Flies for Crop Pollination

This research project explores the potential of supporting native flies to complete crop pollination.

SA: Securing Pollination through Revegetation

Partnering with the University of Adelaide, this program is set to explore how we can support a wider range of pollinators by planting a wider variety of plants throughout crop areas.

Federal: Agrifutures – Securing Pollination

Investigates re-establishing native vegetation to support pollinator food and nesting resources, and how to use new technologies to communicate the findings to farmers.

These positive programs are either educational tools that place the onus on individual action, or funded projects geared towards the agricultural industry. This highlights an issue a number of critics level against Australian policy whereby policy often does not have a dual focus on business and conservation. Critics of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BCA) state that while it attempts to protect animal and plant species, specific issues arise in the solutions proposed.

The BCA has the aim of maintaining ‘a healthy, productive and resilient environment for the greatest wellbeing of the community, now and into the future, consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (BCA, 2016)’. With environmental benefits and the wellbeing of the community sometimes being at odds with each other, it is argued that impacts on conservation are diluted. A primary aim of the 2016 BCA is to award citizens Biodiversity Stewardship Agreements, under which they are paid to protect threatened plant and animal species on their property. However, these protected areas are then used to offset biodiversity loss from government development.

While the Federal government (particularly the AgriFutures body) does take a particular focus on pollinators, they are mostly geared towards solutions which focus heavily on the European honeybee (Apis mellifera) and its impact on agriculture. The reports generally discuss protection of these species in the face of the Varroa Mite and how we may better utilise the honeybee to support farmers.

Heading overseas

Pollinator policies vary around the world due to different emphases on various pollinators and the drivers of pollinator declines with climate change a focus of a number of governments.

Great Britain

Great Britain’s pollinator policies focus on ensuring the continued expansion of food, shelter and nest sites for pollinators, regarded as essential to reducing rapidly declining populations. The five-part policy focuses on several different stakeholders which could be impacted or could impact pollinators. It regards outcomes for both domesticated and native bees. Solutions include:

- Incentives for providing diverse food resources for pollinators, such as native or attractive plants for borders along farms, and:

- Providing advice to farmers about how best to manage pollinators which may visit or provide services

The policy also considers pollinator health in cities and towns where solutions surround information, pest management and ensuring green/sustainable areas such as pollinator-friendly garden window boxes.


Canadian pollinator policy reflects Australian policies, with limited Federal intervention and a focus on the agricultural impact of declining populations, rather than conservation. This is demonstrated predominantly in Canadian policy through a continued use of Apis mellifera (Western Honeybee) and Megachile rotundata (Alfalfa Leafcutting Bee) as definitions of bees, which precludes native pollinators from provisions afforded by the policies. This assumes that the only bees worth protecting are those most commonly used for agriculture.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands, however, employs several strategies to ensure food and habitat sources for pollinators. It allows for all pollinators to be included in the strategy although does place an emphasis on bees. Interestingly, it also refers to ‘bed and breakfasts’ to address the needs of bees in certain areas. The strategy aims to create pathways and links between these bed and breakfasts to ensure an ecological network. Similar to PlantingSeeds’ own B&B Highway, it implicates both schools, communities, and industry in ensuring the future of pollinators.

There is an appealing focus on the development of pollinator research and knowledge within the Netherlands, with the Nationale Bijentelling (National Bee Count) inviting thousands of Dutch people to count bees in their backyards to assist in the collection of bee population trends. This reflects our own work with the Australian Atlas of Living Australia whereby schools and individuals can contribute to national information about biodiversity. Other initiatives employed in the Netherlands are bee hotels, bee stops - bus stops covered in native plants - and even the replacement of plants in public spaces to those which are more likely to attract pollinators.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s policies on pollinators are limited, focusing predominantly on how individuals can impact and help pollinators. Advice is provided at a local level with Auckland organisations offering several resources on planting for pollination or the creation of ‘pollination palaces’, where individuals can create habitats for several different pollinators. The emphasis on individual actions inhibits the impacts of collectivised action.


Global pollinator policies are diverse but a major thread is the emphasis on pollinators as commercial entities, with their role in agriculture a major focus. This narrow perspective belies the importance pollinators have for biodiversity, global ecosystems and for their own survival.