Should Matamata-Piako have sugar-free policy for public places and events?

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board principal dental officer Dr Rob Beaglehole and chief executive Chris Fleming in ...
SAMANTHA GEE/FAIRFAX NZ

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board principal dental officer Dr Rob Beaglehole and chief executive Chris Fleming in the Nelson Hospital cafe with some of the diet soft drinks and fruit juices that will no longer be available at hospital cafes, shops and vending machines.

Councils around the country are being asked to consider a policy which could remove sugar-sweetened drinks from public facilities, events and workplaces.

But Matamata-Piako Mayor Jan Barnes said taking away the right for people to choose was not something her council would support.

The district council discussed the matter at its meeting recently and decided not to back the policy, which would also be debated at the Local Government New Zealand AGM this month.

Matamata-Piako District Council has decided not to back a plan to introduce rules on sugary drinks at public events and ...
123rf.com

Matamata-Piako District Council has decided not to back a plan to introduce rules on sugary drinks at public events and places. (File Photo)

According to a LGNZ report, sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the leading contributors of sugar to the diets of New Zealanders. 

There is a growing awareness of the connection between sugar and health related conditions such as obesity, poor dental health and type-2 diabetes.  

Hastings District Council has been asked to develop a policy on sugar-sweetened beverages. It could involve a sugar-free drink haven within council facilities and council-run events.

It is supported by six other councils around the country.

The LGNZ report said councils were well positioned to influence the health behaviour of staff, elected representatives and visitors.

Councils could also model good health behaviour for their communities, or set an example, through the development of a sugar-sweetened beverage policy.

But Barnes says it was clear her councillors did not want to take away the free will of people. 

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"It's something we want to work on, a policy for what we do have at council controlled facilities.

"But we felt it was up to the patrons choice if they chose to have, say, a can of Coke. 

"We will not be coming down heavy handed on this.  

"Are we going to play the police on this? And that's how I will vote at the [local government] annual conference."   

In 2013 Nelson Marlborough District Health Board became the first health board to implement a policy which limited sugar sweetened beverages. 

Nelson City Council supported the initiative through its own policy.     

The suggested course of action is that Local Government New Zealand provide a template and guidelines to help councils development their own policies.

There was no overall local government policy or position on the matter. 

 - Stuff

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