The Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry says the onus is on beekeepers to take immediate action, if a hive is found to be infected with American foul brood disease.
Hawke's Bay Beekeepers president John Berry has called for MAF to start prosecuting irresponsible beekeepers, after 30 hives on the outskirts of Napier that had been infected with the disease for months had to be destroyed.
He says MAF needs to get tough because American foul brood can easily spread from infected hives to healthy ones several kilometres away.
But MAF senior policy analyst Paul Bolger says under the law it's the responsibility of beekeepers to destroy infected hives immediately.
He says it's a serious matter if people leave hives that they know to be infected exposed for a long time.
Mr Bolger says foul brood is managed under a national pest management strategy by the National Beekeepers Association so they are the primary agency involved in controlling the disease, but MAF could step in to assist them if there is a particular problem.
He says it's not an offence to have a hive with foul brood so long as it is treated and it's possible for beekeepers to get hives infected with foul brood through no fault of their own.