New Zealand

‘Bring your own’ container ban stuns enviro-friendly customers

Making environmentally friendly choices is something Emma Shi tries to do when she is out shopping - particularly at the supermarket. But last week she was shocked when she was not allowed to use her own container at the deli. "The girl at the deli said, 'oh [we] have a new rule that [we're] not allowed to accept people's containers anymore because they're worried people will get sick, not from their products but from not cleaning their own containers properly'," she said. Ms Shi said these kinds of barriers stop people from doing their bit to reduce the use of plastic. "It's letting us become complacent to just keep doing what we always do," she said. In a statement, Countdown said it had a responsibility to make sure all the food it sold was safe for customers. It said while it understood and appreciated that some customers wanted to bring their own containers, that had to be balanced with its over-arching obligation to guarantee food safety. Countdown said a container ban was currently the policy but it was a space that was evolving and changing. But Supermarket company Foodstuffs, which owns New World, Pak'n Save and Four Square, has a trial at one of its stores allowing customers to bring their own containers for meat and seafood. New World Howick has been carrying out the trial for the past two months. Its owner Brendon Jones said he has had an overwhelmingly positive response. "We've had customers saying, 'great, you're preserving the environment for future generations' but we've had other people say, 'it's great not to have our rubbish or recycle bins loaded with the plastic'," he said. Mr Jones said there were food safety protocols that were followed when dealing with customers' containers and only containers that were clean and had a leak-proof lid were accepted. He said expanding the BYO containers to the deli section was tricky, but they were not ruling it out. "Service deli primarily has already cooked or ready-to-eat products, for example sliced meats and salads whereas if you look at the butchery and the seafood, 99.9 percent of those items are there to be taken home, cooked and consumed so it makes quite a difference from a food safety point of view," he said. Two days ago, the government announced its plans to phase out single-use plastic bags by July next year. Trevor Craig from the Bin Inn said its customers were encouraged to bring their own containers. He said the Bin Inn stores were well on their way to getting rid of plastic bags. The specialty grocery chain sells mainly dry wholefoods - often in bulk. But Mr Craig said phasing out plastic for packaged meat would be difficult for other supermarkets. "There's a lot more to that, a lot more research required and you're not going to see an answer to that anytime soon because you have to be careful of protection of food," he said.

Environment

Forest & Bird calls for ban on whitebait sales

Forest & Bird is calling for a ban on the sale of whitebait as the season kicks off for most of the country today. Four of the five native whitebait species are in danger of extinction and the organisation wants commercial whitebaiting banned until they have time to recover. Forest & Bird freshwater advocate Annabeth Cohen said New Zealanders should be asking whether it's okay to have endangered species on restaurant menus. "The idea that it tastes good is not an excuse that we would accept for the kiwi so I don't think we should accept that for our fish." She said catch limits should also be imposed for recreational whitebaiting. "We understand that it's an important cultural pastime so we're not discouraging people from catching a feed with their family but most people are actually surprised when we tell them there's no limit on the recreational catch despite the fact that these fish are struggling." "Maybe people don't understand that they're endangered, so it's first about understanding that this fish could possibly disappear in our lifetime," Ms Cohen said. The whitebaiting season runs until the end of November for most of the country, except for the West Coast where it runs from 1 September to 14 November.

New Zealand

Punakaiki residents frustrated over infrastructure upgrades

Residents in the West Coast town of Punakaiki - home to the Pancake Rocks - have been left frustrated by delays over improvements to vital infrastructure. The previous government had planned to upgrade carparking, toilets and access ways last year, but that was put on hold after the new government introduced its own master plan proposal in February. More than 500,000 people visit Punakaiki every year - and while the tourist revenue is welcome, it is also causing problems in the town. Punakaiki Beach Camp owner Craig Findlay said the town has fewer than 100 residents, but it was being overrun by tourists, including some freedom campers. "A typical summer for us is 25,000-plus visitors staying with us - that's only a small percentage of the half-a-million [tourists who visit the town yearly]." Mr Findlay said the community was frustrated, as the town had one public toilet block and limited car parks. He said successive governments had let the town down. "We had been promised by National for significant improvements to infrastructure, and now the change of government with Labour - [it] has gone into a phase of master planning. I don't know if we'll have anything on the ground this summer coming." Further down State Highway 6, Hydrangea Cottages owner Neil Mouat said the town was quiet for half the year, before it boomed over summer. He said it was important changes were made so they could serve more tourists year round. "If you trade [in Punakaiki] - six months of the year you make no money. Almost all your money has to be made within five months, and most of it within three months." Tourism West Coast has set a target of 1.1 million visitors by 2021, which will mean the town and the region will need more financial investment. Mr Mouat said with limited infrastructure, tourists should be made aware that there were toilets in other nearby towns. "Tourists are only 35 minutes from Greymouth and 50 minutes from Westport. It's not the Australian outback." No quick fix Buller District Council projects manager Glenn Irving said there was no quick fix to the problems the town was facing. However, he said they were working on a freedom camping solution. "Unfortunately, some of the challenges that exist in Punakaiki aren't ones that are going to be solved in a couple of months. "I do know that the [Buller District Council] is looking at quite a few solutions to the freedom camping issues that exist down there during the summer months, so that's something that we can tackle in the short-term." Mr Irving said they were putting a proposal - another step in the master plan process - together for investors to look at. "The plan is to produce a business case to put to future funders for some of the things that need to be done. The plan is to have this part of the project finished by the end of September." Local businesses are going to have to make do for the meantime, but remain hopeful relief is coming in the form of the Punakaiki master plan. The master plan is set to be developed and implemented from next year onwards.

New Zealand

Auckland Council investigating Totora Park cow attack

Auckland Council is investigating the circumstances of a cattle attack in a park at the weekend. A man was injured on Sunday when he went to help a woman being attacked by cows in Totara Park in South Auckland. Auckland Councillor Daniel Newman has since raised questions about whether the leaseholder breached his agreement with the council. Farmer Peter Linton has leased the land for 19 years. The most recent agreement with the council was signed at the end of 2015. It states that the licensee can only graze cattle and sheep on the land and not use it for other purposes. All cattle on the property must be de-horned and can be no more than two years old, and bulls are prohibited. Manurewa-Papakura ward councillor Daniel Newman said he had written to council officers to find out if those conditions were being met. RNZ understands council staff met this morning to discuss their policies around keeping cattle on public land. Mr Linton declined a recorded interview with RNZ, but he said he was not breaching any of the rules set out in the agreement. He said he made the decision with the council to send the heffer and her eight-month old vealer calf to the slaughterhouse after the attack. Even if the cows were not killed yesterday, it was likely they would have been next week, he said. Sunday's cattle attack occurred during calving season. During that time, cows are typically very protective of their young and do not like people getting close. Animal behaviour specialist Elsa Flint said during calving season cattle and the public should be separated "They should just go into a safe zone, at least have a fence between them and the area that the people run or frequent. "Generally, most of the animals that live in the shared spaces are very used to people and so at other times of year, I wouldn't expect this sort of behaviour because they are used to all sorts of things going past them and around them," Ms Flint said. People would benefit from having signs at the entrance of the park that described how to act around a cow and what to do if the animals become agitated, she said. An Auckland council spokeswoman said its development agency, Panuku, managed the lease and it would review the attack, including considering any necessary changes.

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