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Upper Hutt School Grounds to Go Alcohol-Free

Upper Hutt School Grounds to Go Alcohol-Free

Media Release,
on behalf of all Upper Hutt schools

Embargoed until 12:01am Friday 17 November 2006

In what is believed to be a national first, all 21 of Upper Hutt's primary and secondary schools are adopting an alcohol-free policy on their school grounds. The policy, to be introduced on 17 November, is in response to what local principals describe as growing problems caused by people drinking on school property after hours.

"It's become a major issue," says Peter Gunn, principal of Silverstream School. "Groups of people frequently drink on the playground at night leaving all sorts of unsightly and unmentionable litter, and this poses a real danger to children. Quite a lot of broken glass is scattered about and we have had cut hands and feet on a number of occasions."

In a recent incident, St Joseph's School had 17 windows smashed in one night. "When we get to school on Monday morning the first thing we have to do is check for damage and scour the grounds for broken glass," says principal John Young.

To ensure the effectiveness of the policy, all 21 schools have signed an agreement enabling the Upper Hutt police to act as their agents under the Trespass Act 1980 to remove people drinking on school property.

"The agreement will help us provide a safe school environment for our children", says Peter Gunn. "We've tried persuasion and talking, but now the police have a legal foundation to remove drinkers when other approaches don't work."

The Upper Hutt City Council, which was one of the first councils in New Zealand to ban smoking in public parks and reserves, is also supportive of the policy.

"We see this as being right in line with our safe community package," says Upper Hutt Deputy Mayor and former school teacher Shirley Harris. "There are plenty of opportunities for people to drink in safe and controlled environments, and those don't include school playgrounds.

"By their very nature schools should be safe havens where kids can learn and play without fear of intimidation or injury."

New Zealand Drug Foundation Director Ross Bell says "Communities despair about the harm alcohol causes and they often feel powerless to take action.

"New Zealand needs to change its drinking culture - and for this we need a comprehensive package of initiatives. But while we wait for politicians to show leadership on tackling alcohol problems, it's good to see these schools making a stand."

The alcohol-free policy also has the backing of The Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC), Alcohol Healthwatch and Regional Public Health.

Schools will place signs on their grounds warning that those found with alcohol will be trespassed. The ban only applies to unauthorised drinking - teachers and parents will still be able to drink alcohol at official school functions.

The alcohol-free schools policy will be officially launched, and the first sign unveiled, at a luncheon held at Silverstream School at noon on 17 November. Attending will be local Member of Parliament Paul Swain, Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy, Brett Kane of the Upper Hutt Police, local principals and representatives from Regional Public Health.

Members of the public who see people drinking on any school grounds should report it by calling the Police Communications Centre on 3812000 and advising that the school has an alcohol-free policy on which police are empowered to act.

ENDS

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