Smokefree message listened to in Mackenzie

SMOKEFREE CELEBRATIONS: Twizel Area School students celebrate the district's playgrounds and parks becoming smoke-free.
SMOKEFREE CELEBRATIONS: Twizel Area School students celebrate the district's playgrounds and parks becoming smoke-free.

Mackenzie District's playgrounds and parks are now officially smokefree thanks to the efforts of local schools.

Mayor Claire Barlow unveiled the new signage at a special event on Monday.

The council agreed to the proposal last year, after a group of Twizel Area School students spoke at the annual plan hearings.

"We were very impressed with the submission. In spite of the fact that some of the councillors are smokers, they recognise the importance of providing smokefree environments for children to play," she said.

More than 200 Twizel people had signed a petition supporting the idea.

The students who spoke at the council hearings were Liam Tonner, Emily Carpenter, Liam Grant, Cailean Rive, Georgia Ashton, Santana Rapana, Kian Muir and Jake Baikie.

Most were present at the grand unveiling of the signs.

Twizel Area School teacher Michele O'Carroll said the students began the project in May last year.

"Monday's event concludes all their hard work. I think some of the students were quite nervous about appearing in front of the council last year, but now they've done it, they can be confident they can do it again," she said.

"They also achieved more than they thought they would; they originally suggested that only council-owned playgrounds would be smokefree, but the council were so impressed they included parks as well."

Mrs O'Carroll said making playgrounds smokefree helped make the habit seem less normal.

"The less young people see adults smoking, the less normal it will become. I remember going to football matches with my father: the stands were filled with smokers; that's not the norm any more. These days, fewer people smoke, and people who are smokers tend to be a lot more discreet about it," she said.

Mrs O'Carroll said she expected the smokefree environments to be "self-regulating".

"We hope the community will be the good policemen, much like you might tell people not to litter," she said.

The Government has a goal to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025.

Mackenzie district's decision comes after Timaru and Waimate councils declared their council-owned playgrounds smokefree. Timaru also recently indicated that it would declare council-owned sportsgrounds smokefree.

The Timaru Herald