Wellington's waterfront, Civic Square could be smokefree by the end of the year
Smoking a cigarette while enjoying a beer outside one of Wellington's waterfront bars could soon become a thing of the past.
A proposal to make the waterfront and Civic Square smokefree will be brought before Wellington City Council on Wednesday night, after the Public Health Association called on the council to show leadership on the matter.
If successful, the smoking ban could be in place by the end of the year.
But the owner of waterfront bar St Johns has condemned the move as discriminatory against smokers and businesses, and says if smoking is to be banned in one place, it should be banned everywhere.
The Public Health Association addressed the council during public hearings on its Waterfront Development Plan, and said Wellington would be leading the way if it adopted a ban.
"There is no smokefree waterfront [in New Zealand] ... Wellington has one of the best waterfronts, it has this great potential for improving the image and to make it smokefree would add a unique and very important element to this image," George Thomson said on the association's behalf.
Research showed that as few as 3 per cent of people smoked on the waterfront, compared with 18 per cent in Courtenay Place, showing it was already a relatively smokefree and family-oriented place, he said.
The council already has a smokefree policy for city parks and playgrounds.
Thomson suggested banning the sale of tobacco on the waterfront or requiring businesses to have a licence to sell it were other approaches that could help limit smoking.
Speaking after the submission, deputy mayor Justin Lester said there was no reason why a ban should not happen, and mayor Celia Wade-Brown agreed to add a late item to Wednesday's full council meeting agenda, which would see the plan sent out for consultation.
Asked what the impact on smokers at waterfront bars would be, Lester said: "They won't be able to smoke.
"It's a benefit, it's a privilege, to operate a business down there ... I don't think it's a big ask."
As with other smokefree areas, the policy would not be enforced with fines, but would be self-regulating, he said.
As well as the benefits to health, and reducing litter, it was a chance for Wellington to show leadership towards the national goal of being smokefree by 2025.
"The waterfront would be an excellent place to start, and there's no reason why we shouldn't look to roll that out into future public places."
But Trinity Group director Jeremy Smith, whose businesses include St Johns, called the move "crazy" and "discriminatory".
Smoke was not a problem on the waterfront, as outdoor areas were large and smoke was swiftly blown away. It was unfair to drive away people who chose to partake in a legal activity, he said.
If a ban was to be introduced, it should be city-wide. "It's just another nail in the bar/restaurant coffin in terms of driving people away from areas where they can socialise."
OTHER FEEDBACK ON THE WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT PLAN
Submitters at Tuesday's hearings focused on the proposed redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park and the inclusion of a Chinese Garden.
Catherine Underwood said there was no way the name of the park should be changed, because it was part of the city's history. "It's called Frank Kitts Park for a reason."
She said the purpose of the garden would be to create a place of quiet contemplation – yet the park was next to a main road and under flight paths.
Mary Munro, for Waterfront Watch, also questioned the validity of a Chinese Garden there, and said the plan for a film museum was also out of keeping with the waterfront.
More buildings were not what the area needed. "We need to keep it open and pristine for everybody to enjoy."
Pauline Swann urged the council to forgo plans for a $5 million makeover of Frank Kitts Park, and to retain its amphitheatre layout.