Since 2016, Healthy Families Hutt Valley has worked with our partners to make it easier to make water the drink of choice across Te Awa Kairangi. When we choose water it means we’re not drinking sugary drinks that can impact our health and wellbeing. Now we’re seeing the ripple effect of our efforts, with the movement being driven and led by our communities.

To make water the drink of choice we had to make water visible and accessible in the places we live, learn, work and play. The more water is visible and accessible, the more normal it becomes to choose to drink water.

So what happened to create this ripple effect?

To make water visible and accessible to our communities, Healthy Families Hutt Valley worked with our Hutt City Council colleagues to find funding and install permanent water fountains in community spaces. The new style Hydration Stations are visually interesting, branded with messages to promote choosing water, as well as being fun and easy to use.  It isn’t always possible or practical to install a new permanent water fountain, so to increase access to water in our sports fields, parks and reserves we worked with Hutt City Council to buy portable fountains that are lent to sports organisers and event managers to make it easier to provide water.

By demonstrating that water can be a normal part of our public spaces we’ve increased demand for water fountains. Now our communities expect to be able to access water in community spaces and proactively seek community and council funding for new fountain locations. Since starting this work we have increased the number of water fountains across Te Awa Kairangi from four to over twenty seven and counting and it is now normal practice for water fountains to be installed when public spaces are upgraded or renewed.

Providing access to water is just one part of making water the easy and normal drink of choice. To make water normal in our local sporting settings, we reached out to our sports partners to understand what would help make water normal on sidelines and in clubrooms. We learnt that sports organisations wanted to support the wellbeing of their players and whānau and one area of opportunity was to break the link between fast food (and fizzy drink) vouchers for player of the day rewards. This led us to design together the Go the H2O Player of the Day initiative. Clubs and sports organisations that were committed to promoting water as the drink of choice were rewarded with Player of the Day certificates with free pool passes for all their junior players. This initiative creates a triple benefit. Water is promoted as the drink of choice on the side-lines and in club settings, fast food isn’t the reward for Player of the Day and the free pool passes provide an additional opportunity for the player and their whānau to be physically active.  

Since our first season, the Player of the Day initiative has grown from one sports organisation supported by one Council to over 60 clubs and six regional sports codes supported by six Councils across the wider Wellington Region. Over 20,000 Player of the Day pool passes are given out each year, which means for a whole generation of young players, water is the only and normal choice on the sports field and pool passes are the reward for being Player of the Day.

Healthy Families Hutt Valley has driven the Player of the Day initiative since 2017. Now we are seeing clubs and codes proactively reaching out to be part of the initiative and celebrating the changes they are experiencing from being pro water.  The Councils and sports organisations that have been on this journey with us over the last five years are now taking the lead, showing that drinking water and healthy rewards is now normal in our sports sector.

We’re proud to have played a role in changing the way we collectively think about water and making it our drink of choice and are now excited to step towards our new focus of wai ora.