Opinion: Time to stub out public smoking downtown?

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A few months ago I met with Liz Smith, who with her children gathered up approximately 10,000 cigarette butts from the lakefront at Queenstown Bay. Liz brought these into council in a plastic bin and they were truly revolting.

I got to thinking about this the other day while watching a young man flick his cigarette butt into the gutter in the downtown area, with the realisation that with the next shower of rain that butt, along with many others, will end up in our lake.

I’m thinking out loud here but I’m interested in the reaction of others to a certain question: is it time for us to consider a blanket ban on smoking in public places in the downtown areas of Queenstown, Wanaka and Arrowtown?

I’d be interested to hear what others think of this.

I certainly don’t wish to be a kill-joy and if folk wish to smoke that’s their business, but I wonder whether a blanket ban with a couple of designated shelter areas for those who wish to take a puff might stop the pollution in our unique environment caused by the increasingly anti-social habit.

Meanwhile, I visited Wanaka recently to watch Upper Clutha trounce Cromwell in the Central Otago Premiers rugby final.

Well done to the Rams on their first championship win in 39 years and it was very well deserved. Fortunately for me, Mayor Tim Cadogan of Central Otago had agreed to accompany me and put a good bottle of pinot on the result so you might say I won in both respects!

A less pleasant event occurred on the way home when on a no-pass line, with a blind corner coming up, I was passed by a small rental car travelling at ‘a million miles an hour’! In the past I have been defensive of the driving standards of some of our visitors – putting it down to a lack of knowledge of the local road rules and inexperience.

However, in this case, it appeared to me to be someone intent on going as fast as the little rental car was capable of with complete disregard for the safety of our locals or other visitors.

I am a part of the Visiting Drivers Project, and as well as concentrating on driver training and familiarity, the group also needs to think about those who simply don’t care.

Pulling over and calling *555, or getting a passenger to call for you, is always a good option in these instances so that the police can address these irresponsible and unwelcome drivers.

On the subject of driving, I’ve had some very favourable comment back on the Holden Street Smart programme. This is a one-day programme getting young drivers ready for life on Kiwi roads.

Fortunately for our district, it’s held in the lower South Island at Highlands Motorsport Park. It’s the brainchild of my close friend Greg Murphy and it teaches young drivers real life skills and prepares them, in their own vehicles, for what they may encounter as they learn to drive.

I’m thoroughly supportive of anything that lifts the standard of young drivers and has the potential to save lives.

At $49 for the whole day and including lunch, you almost can’t afford not to take your young driver along. See www.holdenstreetsmart.co.nz for more details.

Jim Boult is Queenstown’s mayor