Keeping Marlborough's green spaces smokefree
A nerve-racking council submission was not enough to deter two Marlborough school pupils from clearing the air about Marlborough parks and playgrounds.
The youngest submitters on this year's annual plan were Aroha Huntley,10, and Moana Fuiava-Raj, 10, who spoke in favour of keeping Marlborough green spaces smoke-free.
A council policy introduced two years ago made all parks, gardens, playgrounds, sports grounds, swimming pools and walkways in Marlborough smoke-free, but limited awareness of the stance has prompted the Smokefree Marlborough Coalition to call for smoke-free signs to be rolled out across Marlborough parks and playgrounds.
Council has agreed to install smoke-free signs at playgrounds within the region within two years and introduce smoke-free logos on signage at the entrance to parks and reserves as the signs are replaced.
Moana said it was a good idea to make parks smoke-free.
"Seeing people smoke teaches people bad habits."
Smoking was a difficult habit to stop, she said.
Marlborough District Council reserves and amenities officer Robert Hutchinson said council received "a handful" of complaints about smoking in parks each year from the public.
There was little council workers could do to enforce the smoke-free stance because it was a policy rather than a bylaw, he said.
The focus for council was education, Hutchinson said.
"If we can get the message out not to smoke in our fresh, green spaces, that's what we can do to help.
"People should be able to go to a children's playground without having to worry about someone puffing smoke at them or walking through a blue haze."
New signs would be installed at Pollard Park and Oliver Park, in Blenheim, in July.
The signs would be rolled out at all 30 playgrounds in Marlborough within two years, he said.
A green smoke-free symbol would be added to signage at the entrance to parks and reserves as signs were replaced in the region.
There were 287 parks and reserves that were actively managed by council staff in Marlborough, Hutchinson said.
Council workers had previously installed smoke-free signs at Pollard Park and Oliver Park, but the signs were vandalised or stolen shortly after they were put in place.
"They got destroyed pretty quickly.
"We went through three revolutions and gave up after that. Then we went back to the drawing board."
It was hoped that the new signs would engage with more people by carrying a positive rather than negative message, Hutchinson said.
Marlborough Smokefree Coalition spokeswoman Felicity Spencer said the council policy on smoke-free areas was voluntary and self-enforcing.
The success of the policy was reliant on how well it was communicated to the public, Spencer said.
"For people to be able to comply, they have to know that those places are smoke-free.
"You don't want to have signs everywhere but initially you need signs to help educate people.
"Long term it becomes a normal behaviour."
Spencer talked with year 6 students at Mayfield School to get their feedback on which areas the smoke-free signs should be placed in.
Mayfield School teacher Cheryl Alderlieste said it was good for students to have a chance to give feedback on smoke-free policies.
"It's important to give them opportunities to think about things like this. It's their future."
The results of the New Zealand Health Survey for 2011-2013 show 16.7 per cent of Marlborough residents were smokers.
- The Marlborough Express