Thursday, 22 October 2009

New World Scraps Plastic Bag Charge

Well done New World for deciding to axe its unpopular plastic bag levy for South Island customers. The supermarket chain has listened to its customers and dropped the controversial 5 cent per bag charge at its 40 South Island supermarkets. The decision follows a similar backtrack at its North Island stores last month.

The 5c levy was introduced by Foodstuffs in August, across all 3 of its supermarket brands (New World, Pak 'n Save, and Four Square). Rival supermarket operator, Progressive Enterprises, chose not to respond with a similar bag charge at its Countdown, Woolworths, and Foodtown supermarkets.

Foodstuffs says the New World policy resulted in a 65% reduction in plastic bag usage, but admits the backtrack is the result of a continued negative customer feedback. The company admits it did lose customers when bag charging was introduced, but claims this was balanced by gaining new customers.
"Individual customers objected saying they did not feel they should have to purchase plastic bags. Some were quite loud in their feedback. We have listened to that noise and stopped the levy."
Profits from the plastic bag sales were destined for "environmental charities", although Foodstuffs says similar donations will continue to be made by the company itself.

Interestingly Foodstuffs' plastic bag levy will continue at the company's Pak 'n Save and Four Square supermarkets, where apparently negative customer reaction has been less of an issue.

Maybe customers of the cut-price Pak 'n Save chain accepted the charge as part of the deal of getting cheaper groceries, but the same argument doesn't hold up for the small Four Square supermarkets.
As far as I know The Warehouse also still has its 10 cent bag levy in place (I have always tried to avoid the dodgy red sheds, long before this policy came in).

The bag charging policy as an incentive to reduce plastic bag usage is an interesting one. I note that overseas in the UK, and US Cities like San Francisco, stores offer customers a rebate of up to 10 cents for using their own bags.

Some people have suggested a return to the old brown paper bags, but research reveals paper bags actually generate 70% more air pollutants than plastic, and 50 times more water pollutants. It also takes 4 times as much energy to construct a paper bag, and uses 84 times as much energy to recycle.

The Green Party is again calling for the Government to legislate a mandatory levy on supermarket plastic bags, rather than leaving it up to individual companies and consumers to make their own decisions. Foodstuffs says it will continue to promote reusable supermarket bags as an option for customers.

* ODT - Foodstuffs drops charge for plastic bags

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Monday, 19 October 2009

Rugby Schmugby, I want a refund!

Well I'm back from my long overseas vacation, but with all the dramas here in NZ over the last week or so, I'm starting to wish I was still on holiday!

You better enjoy Rugby World Cup 2011... You're all going to be paying a helluva lot for the "privilege" of having the event come to New Zealand. The country is far less 'rugby mad' these days, but you wouldn't know it going by all the dramas over RWC TV rights, and the growing bills for the taxpayer.

Rugby World Cup 2011 organiser Martin Snedden admitted at the weekend that the event is expected to lose around $40 million. Apparently the NZ Government has kindly agreed to foot the bill for 2/3 of the RWC-2011 loss, with the NZ Rugby Union picking up the remaining third.

Nice, so taxpayers are up for a mandatory $26 million bill to pay for the event, as well as the additional public money being forked out for TV rights.
The Government today officially announced it's backing a joint bid by state broadcasters Maori Television and TVNZ, along with commercial rival TV3 for the free to air tv rights. The Ministry of Maori Development (Te Puni KĊkiri) will also give Maori Television additional funding towards "related services" for the RWC broadcasting project.

Apart from the serious question over why on earth the taxpayer should be subsidising the broadcast tv rights for a sports tournament (when those who actually want to see it can easily subscribe to Sky TV and see them all there!)... the thing that has baffled me the most is the political debate over Maori Television's bid.
The so-called mainstream media seem to have accepted the idea that the Maori Party is essentially the same organisation as Maori Television. Because the two groupings share the word "Maori", the Maori Party seem to believe Maori TV is their own personal tv station to play with?!

The Maori Television Service (MTS) is a fully state-funded broadcaster, which has managed to expand its initial brief and now broadcasts two tv channels, Maori Television and Te Reo. TVNZ is also a state-owned broadcaster, which decided it couldn't afford to bid for the free-to-air tv rights for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

It was therefore a bit far fetched to suggest that Maori Television *could* afford the rights, given its much smaller audience, lack of nationwide coverage, and slim advertising potential.

The only way Maori TV was going to be able to afford to snatch the rights from its state-owned older brother was by getting a much larger handout from the taxpayer. TV3 had also been in the bidding hunt, given it had rights to the previous RWC in 2007.

John Key says the financial details relating to how much public money will be invested in the "joint bid" by Maori TV, TVNZ, and TV3 will be revealed in due course (if the bid is accepted by the International Rugby Board).

The joint bid will see Maori Television broadcast all 40 World Cup games (16 live, 32 delayed). Maori TV will share the opening ceremony and opening game (All Blacks v Tonga) with TVNZ. The All Blacks v France pool game will be shared between Maori TV and TV3. Pay broadcaster Sky TV is planning to screen all the games live on its Sky Sport and Rugby Channels.

The quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final will screen live on at least four NZ television channels (now that's real choice for New Zealand viewers?! That doesn't even happen with the Queen's Christmas message these days!)

And the Government spending of your hard-owned tax dollars doesn't end there... Tourism New Zealand is also spending money faster than you can say "Where's my tax cuts Mr Key?".

Their giant rugby ball building is heading to Tokyo this month, to coincide with the All Blacks vs Wallabies Bledisloe Cup test. The 25 metre-long, 17-metre wide 'blow-up ball' plays visitors a 10 minute 360 degree virtual tour of New Zealand.

The ball cost $3.5 million to build and was originally used during the 2007 RWC, costing $907,000 for a two week stay below the Eiffel Tower. An eight day stint beside Tower Bridge in 2008 cost $1.7 million.
Now the inflatable ball is about to sit beneath the Tokyo Tower for seven days, at a cost to taxpayers of almost $400,000 a day!! I don't consider that good value for money!?!

Tourism New Zealand say the promotion's aimed at boosting the country's image and brand in the lucrative Japanese market. At a cost of $2.7 million, someone must be expecting one helluva lot of visitors over those six days the exhibit is open to the public. (Although the oval-shaped building can hold just 220 people at any one time).

* Stuff - World Cup losses expected around $40 million

* Stuff - Rugby ball's Tokyo visit costs $400,000 a day

* No Minister - When Bullshit Reigns Supreme

* Liberty Scott - Taxpayer and TV rights

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