Local community champions in the suburb of Naenae in Lower Hutt have decided to take action to Turn the Tide so that the youngest members of our whānau grow up in an environment that supports them to thrive and reach their potential.

The desire to create a healthier place for our tamariki to grow up in has led to 10 organisations across Naenae to sign up to Turning the Tide, a social movement to create more health promoting environments. Together they are creating ripples of action especially around choosing water as the drink of choice.

In Naenae this means three primary schools, the local college, medical centre, library, swimming pool, cricket club, Tokelau Hutt Valley Sport and Cultural Association as well as the clubhouse for rangatahi have all committed to take action so that water is the drink of choice. Many are also increasing access to healthy kai and encouraging their community to be active.

The impact of these changes might seem small, but once we consider these organisations’ reach of approximately 5,000 members or students in addition to the over 620,000 visits to the Council pool and library each year it adds up. Small actions to change the environments we spend our time in are making a big difference to a large number of people within our community.

Principal of Rata Street School, Dave Appleyard says, “Schools are in a unique position to not only make changes that have an immediate impact on children’s health but we can also influence their attitude and their understanding of why – this has a longer term benefit.

Going ‘water only’ was one of the easiest school changes to implement. Parents and children were supportive right from the get go. When I announced at the school assembly that the next disco was water only and that we were giving away free water – the children cheered! Free water – it was like I’d just offered an amazing treat.”

When Naenae Cricket Club set up their new junior section, Club Captain Marcel Wratt and his committee showed their leadership and demonstrated how sport has a role to play in providing a health promoting and family-friendly environment. “We think it is important, especially in younger age groups to encourage development of good habits, and drinking water is one of the things we are really passionate about encouraging.”