Smoking is still a major cause of preventable disease in our country and, while we are making good progress to reduce the harm from tobacco, bold leadership at all levels is still needed and we have been on that journey in the Hutt Valley.

Aligned to the Government’s goal of a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, we have been working towards a smokefree Hutt Valley where the public can enjoy less impact from second-hand smoke.

This policy work began in 2015 with an initial conversation between Healthy Families Hutt Valley and Hutt City Council over a review of the council’s Smokefree Outdoor Public Places Policy. This lead to a comprehensive review of a policy originally developed in 2009 that explored bolder options for smokefree outdoor areas. 

As part of the review, extensive community engagement took place with a series of interviews and conversations that specifically sought input from young people from local schools, and those living in communities with higher smoking rates, and with council staff who would be impacted by the policy. We also engaged with local boards and stakeholders including health partners, regional council, the local regional stop smoking service, local community groups and organisations.

At the end of this review process in 2016, we had developed a strong evidence base that included local data and community voice that supported our case for a bolder smokefree policy for Lower Hutt. This policy was passed in 2016 along with a three-year action plan for its implementation and move towards embedding the policy into council’s ‘business as usual’. An additional review last year meant we were able to further strengthen this policy.

We are proud that both Hutt City Council and Upper Hutt City Council now have two of the most extensive smokefree outdoor public places policies in New Zealand.

And these policies have a widespread reach that includes smokefree and vapefree areas across both city playgrounds, parks, sports grounds and skate parks, outdoor public swimming pools, bus shelters, bus stops and train stations, beaches, outdoor public areas around council buildings and facilities, council run and funded events, outdoor pavement dining areas, the central business district, and some suburban centres.

Alongside the development of these policies it’s been encouraging to see smoking rates in the Hutt Valley continue to decline, but we know there is always more that can be done.

The leadership from the mayors of both Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt, chief executives and leadership teams have been crucial to the effectiveness of these policies and will continue to play a key role as our smokefree policies continue to be implemented and embedded.