Nelson mayor challenges others to get rid of sugary drinks

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese filled her water bottle at a drinking station near Nelson Provincial Museum on Trafalgar St.
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese filled her water bottle at a drinking station near Nelson Provincial Museum on Trafalgar St.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese is challenging Auckland mayor Len Brown to ditch sugary drinks while the Tasman District Council refuses to follow the Nelson's lead and go sugar free.

Reese said the Nelson City Council was trying to encourage councils across the country to come on board with sugary beverages policies, similar to its own.

"Len Brown, imagine the difference you could make to the health of the children in your city," she said, also challenging other mayors.

"Let's be role models for our cities and lead the way."

Reese said the council was supporting Nelson Marlborough District Health Board with its push to tackle sugar, as it had shown "real leadership on this issue".

In 2014, the NMDHB became the first in the country to implement a sugar free drinks policy and NCC followed suit to become the first council in the country with such a policy.

The council's policy stops the sale of drinks with "calorific sweetener" in Civic House, council run libraries and Broadgreen House. It also applies for NCC managed vending machines.

Instead, the council stocks water, 100 per cent fruit juice, unsweetened milk and artificially sweetened or zero sugar soft drinks.

Earlier this year Marlborough District Council became the second council to adopt a sugary drinks policy.

Reese said NCC did not ban contractors at events from selling sugary drinks, but encouraged them to supply healthy options instead.

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She said 30 per cent of Kiwi adults and 10 per cent of children were obese, which made it a big issue that the council wanted others to get involved with.

"We're not into banning, we're into encouraging people to come on board, which is what this is all about. It's a much better way to get the message across."

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said the Tasman District Council would not be implementing a sugar free beverage policy.

"Where council got to is that we prefer education and choice rather than banning sugary drinks," he said.

The Motueka recreation centre and Richmond town hall are the two TDC facilities that stock sugary drinks. Kempthorne said water at the two facilities used to be more expensive than fizzy drinks, but Sport Tasman had partnered with two local organisations to supply free water from a dispenser at both venues.

"[NCC's policy] is understandable because there is certainly an impact of sugary drinks on dental health, and we know the current discussions with obesity, so it's good to encourage not drinking sugary drinks and that's the way we're taking our approach."

NMDHB principal dental officer Rob Beaglehole said he'd had discussions with a number of mayors and councils around the country, including Wellington City Council which was exploring options. 

"I hope more councils can see their part to play in this serious issue and make a proactive decision which will enable the healthier choices to be the easy choice for families," he said.

 - Stuff

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