Sending smoke signals: The community response to the Baw Baw Shire Council’s smoke free areas has been largely positive. Photo: William Kulich.
Baw Baw’s Smoke Free Outdoor Areas policy trial will continue after councillors voted unanimously for its extension last night.
After discussing responses to the council’s community consultation on the policy, councillors voted unanimously to adopt the policy in principle and extend the trial until it becomes law.
Councillor Tony Wolfe said the response shows the policy is an “outstanding success” and the council is acting in the community’s best interests.
“The consultation phase was overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the trial,” Cr Wolfe said.
“We had the foresight to come in and say people are dying [from smoking.]
“It’s fair to say we copped some flak when [this] went out, [but] it’s proven that it hasn’t [negatively impacted business,] it’s proven that it has actually increased.”
The Baw Baw Shire Council received 167 community feedback survey responses and 66 business feedback survey responses between July 10 and 27, and another eight responses were accepted before August 14.
An e-poll conducted as part of the community consultation received 203 responses, with 72 per cent of respondents saying they support the policy, but only 49 per cent believe the policy has worked.
Councillor Julie Grant said the policy’s enforcement will be improved once it leaves the trial phase, saying police might also help enforce the bans.
“Once it is a local law, it is not only our local officers who will have a role,” Cr Grant said.
Council had taken an “educative” approach to the bans, opting not to enforce fines.
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The community feedback survey showed the level of community support for the policy has changed little since the trial began, and 74 per cent of respondents supported fines being enforced.
The survey also showed 65 per cent of community members found shopping in Baw Baw more enjoyable as a result of the smoke free areas, while only one in 20 respondents found it less enjoyable.
The highest levels of dissatisfaction in the policy were recorded in alfresco dining and central activity areas.
Businesses were less supportive than shoppers, with 65 per cent of respondents saying they supported the policy while 27 per cent did not.
Eighty-three per cent of business respondents reported having no effects or positive effects from the trial, while 17 per cent reported a negative effect.
Councillor Peter Kostos said one business owner with alfresco dining would have kept the area smoke free even if the trial was not extended.
“I had one business owner who was anti- this proposal before it started, but not long after he changed his mind,” Cr Kostos said.
During the initial one year trial from August last year, the council received 12 negative responses, 18 positive responses and 12 reports of people smoking in smoke free areas.
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