A plastic bag levy is an effective and efficient means of reducing litter and a minor form of environmental pollution. They've been tested overseas, and proven to be remarkably effective. But for some reason, the Ministry for the Environment hates the idea:
Local councils support it, retailers support it and the Green Party simply will not stop talking about it.
Yet a plastic bag levy does not appear to be on the National Government's radar, after the Ministry for the Environment advised against the scheme.
"1.6 billion plastic bags are used in New Zealand every year, and many of them end up in our oceans."
Roche travelled the length of the country campaigning for a phase-out scheme last year, with support from conservation advocacy group Our Seas Our Future.
"The Ministry's argument was that New Zealand is a small country and we don't contribute a lot to the marine waste, so why should we do anything."
I get that we have bigger policy fish to dry - for example, clean water and climate change (which MfE are also failing woefully on). But that shouldn't preclude acting to solve this problem. And to approach it from the position that New Zealand is a small country and therefore it doesn't matter what we do is simply policy malpractice from MfE which calls their competence into question.
It also raises doubts about MfE's political neutrality. We know their Minister, Nick Smith, hates the idea (just like he hates clean rivers, normal temperatures, and unbuilt-on land) - but the ministry wasn't advising him, but a Parliamentary select committee. And when they're doing that, they need to keep in mind who they're ultimately working for: not the Minister, but the people of New Zealand.