Apology by Brian Rudman and the NZ Herald to Judith Collins' husband

The NZ Herald published an article authored by Brian Rudman ,"Judith Collins' Pipeline to Promotion Springs Leak", on Wednesday 20 September 2017. The article made untrue statements about Judith Collins' husband. Brian Rudman and the NZ Herald unreservedly apologise to Judith Collins' husband.

While Winston and Bill and Jacinda are busy flashing their bottom lines at each other in post-election mating rituals, the Countdown supermarket chain has filled the leadership vacuum with its decision to phase out single-used plastic bags.

Countdown managing director Dave Chambers says the move is backed by 83 per cent of customers and will result in 350 million fewer plastic bags ending up in rubbish tips. Apart from a letter to the editor yesterday from a "longtime boatie" who reckons it's all part of a plot by the "supermarket duopoly" to "save millions," the overwhelmingly reaction seems to have been, "about time."

It also reminds us of the past dithering of our political leaders, terrified of upsetting the packaging manufacturers. Only a few weeks back, Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee was forced to take a back seat at a meeting of Pacific Island Forum leaders as they agreed to fast track the development of a policy to ban the use of single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam packaging in the Island nations because of the alarming levels of plastic in the surrounding seas.

Instead of supporting a matching ban in New Zealand, Brownlee said his government preferred "for there to be a natural rejection of too much plastic packaging, and then a proper treatment of that packaging once it's in the disposal position."

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Into this never-never land has stepped Countdown and taken the lead. From the pat on the back offered from the rival supermarket chain, it seems likely they won't be far behind. My only criticism would be, why are they both not doing it next week, instead of 14 months away at the end of 2018?

I admit I'm a recent convert to the reusable super market bag, and we all know how committed new believers can sometimes be. To be honest, I'd long thought the bags full of plastic bags I had stuffed away at the back of the kitchen cupboards were ridiculous. But each Saturday, zoned out at the check-out, you just collected a few more and thought no more.

Then a month or so back, the reusables were lined up at the check-out on special and I bought a couple. The next week I had to buy two more, because I'd forgotten the first lot. I've since trained myself to shove them back into the boot of the car as part of the emptying ritual. Now, when I see a choking turtle, or the plastic-filled stomach contents of an albatross up close on TV, I can say, not to blame.

If the incoming government wants to reclaim leadership in this field, the obvious move would be to adopt Countdown's voluntary target as one that other reusable bag distributors had to match. After all, Countdown only accounts for around a fifth of the 1.6 billion plastic bags New Zealanders use each year.

Greenpeace is campaigning for an outright ban, backed by more than half the country's mayors including the leaders of the four major cities. Bringing up the rear, was the last government which had finally come around to the idea of a levy on each throw-away bag. But with reusable bags now on special for around $1 each, why would you bother?

Two years ago, the National Government had opposed the idea of a levy, which had proved very successful in the British Isles in reducing use by more than 70 per cent. Instead it offered to subsidise the packaging industry's new voluntary waste recycling project with $1.2 million of taxpayers money. Two years, the scheme has been something of a disaster, recycling just 360 tonnes a year nationally - peanuts compared to the 17,000 tonnes of household soft plastics still ending up in Auckland's landfills alone each year.

Of course it's not just a New Zealand problem. Earlier this year the Tasmanian Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies calculated there were 38 million items of plastic debris washed up on uninhabited Henderson Island in the Pitcairn Group. Over a three month period, 17 to 268 new items washed up on one 10-metre stretch of beach each day.

Researcher Jennifer Lavers says it was a wake-up call that plastic pollution was as grave a threat to humanity as climate change. Put like that, banning throw-away plastic bags seems as good a place as many to start as any.