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Plastic Bag Charge A Deterrent, Rather Than Tax, Says PM

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, March 30 NZPA - A government proposal to charge shoppers 5 cents for plastic bags would be a deterrent rather than tax and a decision is a long way off, says Prime Minister John Key.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said he had asked his ministry to investigate an initiative where compulsory charges would be introduced for shoppers using plastic bags.

Some supermarkets already charge for plastic bags and The Warehouse has announced plans to put a 10 cent levy on them from April 20.

Dr Smith said New Zealanders were using too many environmentally unfriendly plastic bags and international experience showed introducing levies on them reduced usage.

He said money generated by the user-pays scheme would go back to the supermarkets, rather than into a cash pool, The Dominion Post reported today.

"I don't see this is as some sort of cash cow, what's important is changing consumer behaviour," he said.

Mr Key said on TV One's Breakfast show today that it was too early to say whether he would throw his support behind such a scheme.

"We would need to see whether it would be effective and what it would achieve," he said.

While such a move could be considered a form of tax, the goal was to turn people away from using plastic bags rather than tax them for it.

However, he said there was "nothing wrong with changing the balance of taxes", provided there was some benefit as a result.

Mr Key said he hadn't had any discussion or advice from the Environment Ministry and it would take a couple of months for the ministry to report back to Dr Smith.

Progressive Enterprises public affairs manager Bill Moore told NZPA the company, which runs Woolworths, Foodtown and Countdown supermarkets, had agreed to trim its use of plastic bags by 20 percent by June this year.

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