Sugary drinks are off the menu at the Nelson City Council and from all of its events as of this week.
Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese made the announcement at the annual Local Government NZ conference opening ceremony in Nelson yesterday laying down the gauntlet to the Auckland super-city mayor.
"Len Brown - imagine the difference you could make to the health of the children in your city," she said as the audience applauded her challenge for him to follow suit.
Nelson is the first council in the country to ban sugary drinks and follows the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board in doing so.
"I wanted to put the challenge out to other mayors from across the country," said Reese. Although she had not caught up with Brown after the opening ceremony she said she had received "a good smile" from him and a positive response from other mayors.
Water will replace sugary drinks at all council community events, but the policy will not impact on alcoholic beverages or the Cricket World Cup, which is sponsored by PepsiCo.
"My focus is on the young children in our community and giving them a healthy choice," said Reese.
"The alcohol discussion doesn't come into that. It's not the focus of this initiative - which is this being the best city in New Zealand to raise children."
She said the Cricket World Cup was an existing event and the council had a contract with the organisers who had a sponsorship arrangement with suppliers, leaving this event outside the bounds of the new policy, which was principally for Nelson City Council community events.
Reese said she had received positive feedback from a number of community-based organisations wanting to get involved - with Riverside Pool replacing all sugary drinks with healthier alternatives and Nelmac offering to provide free drinking water at all events.
"This is actually so simple. It's just about choosing what you supply. It's a choice and what we didn't want to do was take something away and not replace it," she said.
Nelson Marlborough DHB principal dental officer Dr Rob Beaglehole, who inspired the DHB's move to ban the drinks, backed the council's decision.
"The DHB totally supports what Rachel and the Nelson City Council has done because she's acting as a great role model to other councils around the country," he said.
Singling out Brown in her speech was a good move, said Beaglehole as he "has the most children in his patch".
"The Government needs to take this seriously as does local government," he said.
The Nelson Marlborough DHB spends $1 million a year to treat children with rotting teeth.
Beaglehole agreed with Reese that the focus should be on sugary drinks rather than alcohol because such drinks were not generally accessible to children anyway, but much harm was being caused by sugary beverages that were often given to children from a young age.
Up to four DHBs have adopted the no sugary drinks policy since March and Beaglehole was hopeful other councils would pick up on Nelson's example and join the no sugary drinks club.
This position by the Nelson council was a turnaround from the previously elected council which was split over the sugary drinks ban last year. The issue made it no further than the debate stage, while the Tasman District Council voted against a ban last year.
- The Nelson Mail
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