Public comment sought on council's Draft Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy

Problem: Cigarette butts are a major litter culprit.
Problem: Cigarette butts are a major litter culprit.

Cigarette butts are always at the top of the collected rubbish list during Coastal Warriors - Mid North’s clean-ups.

Coastal Warriors – Mid North Coast founding director Addam Lockley said the volunteers would collect well over 500 cigarette butts during each beach clean-up, for example.

A 2017 Port Macquarie foreshore clean-up netted the most cigarette butts with 7000 collected.

Mr Lockley supports education and policy in a bid to address the problem, while he also advocates policing to act as a deterrent.

He believes community input and discussions could be a way to find a solution.

“At the moment, we just keep picking up cigarette butts at every clean-up and something definitely needs to change,” Mr Lockley said.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is doing its bit with a draft Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy out for public comment.

The draft policy’s aims include minimising cigarette butt pollution at beaches, waterways, parks and other open spaces.

Improving community members’ health and protecting members of the community from the health and social impacts of smoking by others in public places are among the other aims.

The draft policy, as it relates to beaches, has an education and awareness focus rather than a enforcement focus.

The existing Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy, which was established in 2012, has been reviewed to take into account changes in legislation as well as the community's attitude to smoking.

The Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy acts as a framework for regulatory compliance, ensuring relevant legislation is met.

It allows the council to manage where the community can smoke in public spaces, while looking to encourage better behaviours.

The draft policy will ban smoking within 10 metres of children’s play equipment in outdoor public spaces, at public swimming pools, spectator areas at sports grounds or other recreational areas during organised sporting events, public transport stops, bus stops, taxi ranks and ferry wharves, within four metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building and in commercial outdoor dining areas.

Beaches, parks, reserves, bushland and walking trails are also among the smoke-free areas.

Another policy on exhibition for public comment is the Alcohol Use on Public Reserves and Beaches Policy which outlines the process for establishing appropriate alcohol use across our parks and beaches.

Director Jeffery Sharp said the council regularly reviewed its policies to ensure they considered community sentiment and changing needs, as well as any legislative requirements.

“Recent changes to legislation has meant a review of council’s Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy was needed, particularly relating to smoking in outdoor dining areas, and the use of e-cigarettes,” Mr Sharp said.

“Council has also worked closely with the local police to reduce alcohol-related anti-social behaviour in public places particularly during popular events like Australia Day, with new guidelines now included in the [Alcohol Use on Public Reserves and Beaches] policy.”

Both the Smoke Free Outdoor Area Policy and the Alcohol Use on Public Reserves and Beaches Policy are available for the community to have a say until October 26.

“These policies have been developed to ensure our public spaces remain places that our community want to be in and council encourages people to take the time to let us know what you think,” Mr Sharp said.

Visit the council’s online community engagement hub or call the council on 6581 8111 to view the draft policies and have your say.