"Nanny state" interventions such as a "fat tax" on unhealthy products and compulsory nutrition ratings on food labels are popular with New Zealanders, a Herald-DigiPoll survey shows.

More than half of those surveyed said an obesity tax on goods such as soft drinks - which has been rejected by the National-led Government - was a "good idea", compared to 42 per cent who felt it was a "bad idea". The public was also overwhelmingly behind new star rating labels introduced by Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye last month, but wanted the scheme to be compulsory for producers.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the poll result was "not surprising" considering the high profile the issue of obesity taxes has had in media coverage.

He reaffirmed the Government's opposition to fat taxes or sugar taxes, saying they would raise the cost of a range of staple products such as jam.


"The Government's preference is to provide information and support for individuals and families rather than nanny state regulation," he said.

The DigiPoll survey found Aucklanders were more in favour of a sugar tax than the rest of the country, and the initiative was most popular with younger people - 55 per cent of whom felt it was a good idea.

Denmark is the only country to experiment with a tax on foods which are high in saturated fats, but repealed the measure after a year because it inflated food prices and put jobs at risk.

Mr Ryall said investment in healthy eating and exercise initiatives were a more evidence-based and sophisticated way of reducing obesity. A Healthy Star Rating system was supported by 82 per cent of people in the DigiPoll survey, though more than half of that group felt it should be made compulsory for manufacturers.

Ms Kaye said the Government had decided against making it mandatory because this would cause food prices to spike. The voluntary system would be reviewed in two years.