Pressure goes on Govt for plastic bag levy
Mayors from across New Zealand have combined their voices to demand a plastic bag levy.
More than 90 per cent of city and district mayors have signed an open letter, calling on central government to impose a levy, or step aside and let them take up the reins.
It is a powerful show from local bodies to central government, which has shown little movement on the issue of plastic bags, despite strong public support for action.
The letter follows revelations that a third of turtles and seabirds washed up on New Zealand’s shores have stomachs.
A petition recently launched by a group of Wellington school students gathered more than 15,000 signatures.
Signed by 65 mayors and regional council chairmen and chairwomen, the letter builds on a previous show of support from the 2015 LGNZ Conference, when 89 per cent of councils supported a levy.
‘‘The experience of those in local government is that plastic bags make a considerable impact on local environments and communities bear the environmental and financial burden,’’ an LGNZ spokesman said. plastic in their
She said international experience had shown levies were effective in Denmark, Ireland and China, where they resulted in a dramatic reduction in plastic bag use.
Wellington mayor Justin Lester said councils were at the coalface, and saw the impact of plastic waste first-hand.
‘‘The fact that almost every mayor in New Zealand – and the majority of regional council chairs – have spoken up about plastic bags, and the fact that we have a united view about the solution to this problem, sends a very strong message about how big an issue this is,’’ he said.
Retail NZ, which represents 4200 New Zealand businesses, also sent a letter to Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson recently, calling for a levy.
Lester said it was ‘‘a unique situation’’ for retailers to call for greater regulation.
‘‘It’s a ground breaking move, and one that I hope will prove persuasive to Minister Simpson.
‘‘What the plastic bag levy campaign comes down to is whether the government is prepared to listen and act on what New Zealand has very clearly said it wants, irrespective of election pointscoring.’’
LGNZ president Lawrence Yule said it was clear action was needed.
‘‘Plastic bags cause harm in their creation, when they go to landfill and when they are littered,’’ he said.
In January the Government announced proposals to ban products containing plastic microbeads from New Zealand, based on evidence they harmed waterways, fish and shellfish.
Yule said a levy on plastic bags was the logical next step.
Simpson has shown signs of softening to a levy, but said recently he would not support ‘‘heavy handed legislation’’.
He has created a working group with players from the packaging and retail industry to discuss voluntary measures.