May­ors call for plas­tic bag tax

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - GED CANN

Pres­sure is mount­ing on cen­tral gov­ern­ment to im­pose a plas­tic bag levy as may­ors from three of the coun­try’s big­gest cities launched a cam­paign call­ing for sup­port on a manda­tory charge on sin­gle-use bags.

An open let­ter, signed by the may­ors of Dunedin, Auck­land, and Welling­ton, echoed Welling­ton Mayor Justin Lester’s pre­vi­ous re­quest that gov­ern­ment im­pose a levy, or step aside and al­low lo­cal gov­ern­ment to do it.

‘‘When the UK brought in just a 5p levy in 2015, they’ve seen an 86 per cent de­crease in the num­ber of plas­tic bags go­ing to land­fills. This has been proven to work over­seas,’’ Lester said.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment New Zealand pres­i­dent Lawrence Yule said a levy had strong sup­port from the sec­tor, with a poll from 2015 show­ing 89 per cent of coun­cils were in sup­port.

Auck­land Mayor Phil Goff said Ki­wis had to stop the flow of hun­dreds of mil­lions of non­biodegrad­able plas­tic bags dumped in land­fill ev­ery year, af­ter fig­ures re­vealed Auck­land dumped 17,000 tonnes of soft plas­tics last year alone.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said res­i­dents were tak­ing what ac­tion they could, but cen­tral gov­ern­ment ac­tion was needed.

‘‘The truth is they [plas­tic bags] need to be stopped at the source,’’ Cull said.

‘‘The en­vi­ron­men­tal costs of deal­ing with plas­tic bags are ul­ti­mately borne by ratepay­ers. A levy would not only help to re­duce the prob­lem at source, but levy fund­ing could be re­turned to coun­cils for them to spend on fur­ther waste min­imi­sa­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal clean-up mea­sures.’’

Welling­ton City Coun­cil Waste op­er­a­tions man­ager Adrian Mitchell knows only too well the cost born on ratepay­ers, with $20,000 spent on fenc­ing to catch bags blown out of the city’s south­ern land­fill last year, and an­other $18,000 bud­geted for more fenc­ing this year.

Re­cently, As­so­ciate En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Scott Simp­son an­nounced fund­ing for the first in­de­pen­dent na­tional lit­ter sur­vey un­der the Keep New Zealand Beau­ti­ful scheme.

The scheme would re­place the Na­tional Lit­ter Sur­vey com­mis­sioned by the Pack­ag­ing Fo­rum, fig­ures from which En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Nick Smith had pre­vi­ously quoted as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for not im­pos­ing a levy.

MAARTEN HOLL/FAIR­FAX NZ

Auck­land dumped 17,000 tonnes of soft plas­tics last year.

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