Pro Water Current Gathers Pace in South Auckland

One of Mangere’s most popular summer events, the Portage Crossing, took the bold step of declaring themselves ‘fizz free’ this year as well as ensuring all stall holders took a healthier approach in what they offered in food and beverages.

And this new healthier approach is set to be trialed at a number of council-funded events around South Auckland.

Organisers from the Manukau Urban Maori Authority worked closely with the Healthy Families South Auckland team and Auckland Council staff to ensure the event could be held up as an example for the community on how to make healthier lifestyle choices.

In practice this meant marketing the event as ‘fizz free’, with water promoted as the drink of choice, and stations on-site for participants to access free water. Food stalls and vendors were required to be aligned to Auckland Council’s bronze standard of the Food & Beverage Guidelines which essentially meant no sugary drinks or high fat foods could be sold.

The event also had a big focus on exercise with its famous waka-ama race, which is a 20 km paddle and walk route from Okahu Bay re-enacting the journey taken by the Tainui waka eight centuries earlier when arriving onto the shores of the Manukau Harbour. To support participants involved in the race, water stations were strategically placed along the event route to allow people to fill up their water bottles.

Along with promoting getting fit and making healthy food and beverage choices, the event organisers also ensured smoke-free messages was consistently plugged from the main stage throughout the day.

MUMA event coordinator Wynn Anania says taking a healthier approach wasn’t that hard to deliver.

“For the Portage Crossing it’s a step in the right direction, a healthier direction – and we found the Healthy Environment principles were quite easy to implement.”

The event, which was funded by the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board and Panuku Development, will also serve as an example to the Auckland Council’s events team and the southern Local Boards on how healthier events can be delivered in the future.

Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board chair Lemauga Lydia Sosene is keen to see more local organisations like MUMA promoting healthier lifestyle choices.

“Our board has been strongly advocating for council-run facilities and council-funded events to be free of sugary drinks and fatty foods, so we applaud the organisers of the Portage Crossing for taking this courageous step.”

The “Fizz Free” movement comes on the heels of Healthy Families South Auckland’s wider strategic work to promote water as the first drink of choice, and this has involved working intensively with South Auckland secondary schools and early childhood centre to improve access to water within their facilities.

Healthy Families South Auckland manager George Makatapatama says it’s important to take every opportunity to increase the accessibility of healthy food and drink choices, given the high rates of serious chronic diseases affecting so many in South Auckland.

“We have some gnarly issues in South Auckland with chronic disease caused by unhealthy diets and lifestyle choices. But one simple response we can take is through creating an events framework which can effectively influence behaviour change in a common-sense way without ruining people’s fun,” he says.

“A healthier future starts with Aucklanders making healthier choices in all the places they live, learn, work, and play – including at our amazing summer events.”