Pres­sure goes on Govt for plas­tic bag levy

The Southland Times - - NEWS - GED CANN

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.

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