De­mand for bag levy gath­ers pace

The Horowhenua Mail - - OUT & ABOUT - GED CANN

Nearly half of the na­tion’s may­ors, in­clud­ing Horowhenua’s Michael Feyen, have signed a let­ter put­ting pres­sure on cen­tral gov­ern­ment to im­pose a manda­tory charge on plas­tic bags, but the call seems to be fall­ing on deaf ears.

Two weeks af­ter the may­ors of Welling­ton, Auck­land and Dunedin cir­cu­lated an open let­ter call­ing for lo­cal gov­ern­ment to sup­port a levy, the num­ber of sig­na­to­ries have grown to in­clude 28 of the coun­try’s 67 may­ors, in­clud­ing Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

Mean­while, a pe­ti­tion launched by a group of Welling­ton high school stu­dents call­ing for a levy has gained over 8900 sig­na­tures.

Mars­den Col­le­giate School stu­dent Cici Davie said the group was now launch­ing a cam­paign, #Bagsinthewild, in which par­tic­i­pants took pho­to­graphs of plas­tic bag litter and emailed them to En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Nick Smith.

‘‘We are hop­ing to kind of cre­ate an in­flux of emails to him, so that he gets a bit over­whelmed,’’ she said.

Davie said the group was in­spired by two Ba­li­nese sis­ters whose cam­paign­ing con­vinced the is­land’s gov­ern­ment to ban plas­tic bags by 2018.

In ad­di­tion to th­ese new calls, two independent sur­veys have shown Ki­wis strongly sup­ported a manda­tory levy on sin­gle-use plas­tic bags.

But As­so­ciate En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Scott Simp­son has main­tained his stance against a leg­isla­tive ap­proach.

Welling­ton Mayor Justin Lester had pre­vi­ously pressed cen­tral gov­ern­ment to im­pose a levy, or step aside and al­low lo­cal author­i­ties to do so, but the spokesman said the min­is­ter was still ap­posed to this.

‘‘He thinks that would just lead to a con­fused sit­u­a­tion that would be un­cer­tain and com­pli­cated. His pref­er­ence would be for a vol­un­tary na­tion­wide process rather than heavy-handed reg­u­la­tion.’’

The spokesman said Simp­son was set­ting up a work­ing group to ex­plore op­tions for re­du­ing plas­tic bag con­sump­tion.

The Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment re­cently came un­der crit­i­cism for its reliance on the Pack­ag­ing Fo­rum - an in­dus­try ad­vo­cacy body - to con­duct re­search that was then used to in­form pol­icy de­ci­sions.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view con­ducted in the wake of the crit­i­cism, Simp­son said it was not un­usual to use re­search from the sec­tor to in­form de­ci­sions.

The min­istry had re­cently com­mis­sioned its first piece of independent re­search in the area, he said.

In­dus­try-led re­cy­cling schemes have failed to stem the tide of plas­tic bags en­ter­ing land­fill. Re­cent fig­ures show the Soft Plas­tic Pack­ag­ing Re­cy­cling Scheme col­lected only two per cent of the 1.6 bil­lion plas­tic bags com­ing into the coun­try ev­ery year.

The open let­ter said more ac­tion was needed, and pointed to Eng­land where a levy re­duced plas­tic bag us­age by 85 per cent within 6 months.

Lester said he was thrilled with the sup­port shown from other lead­ers around the coun­try.

Those who had not still had a few weeks be­fore the let­ter was pre­sented to Simp­son.

‘‘We’ve had back­ing from big cities and small towns. All around the coun­try, peo­ple see the dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment done by plas­tic bags.’’

Nearly half of New Zealand may­ors have signed an open let­ter call­ing for a plas­tic bag levy.

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