Fast food outlets in close proximity to Hawke's Bay schools are an issue, but principals say education is the key to promoting healthy choices for children.

A study released yesterday by University of Auckland researchers found more than 60 per cent of urban schools have a convenience store and a fast food or takeaway outlet within 800 metres of them. The study, conducted in 2014, also found the density of unhealthy food outlets around urban schools was substantial.

Flaxmere Primary School principal and Hawke's Bay Primary Principals' Association president Robyn Isaacson said a lot of schools emphasised healthy eating.

"Our job is to help kids make the right choices, there's always going to be those temptations but it's outside our zone."


William Colenso College principal Daniel Murfitt supported limiting access to unhealthy foods for students.

"This has to be a whole community, including government, response as schools are right in the middle of communities and are unable to manage the problem without community support."

A dairy is located at the back gate of the college, which Mr Murfitt said made it very difficult to run a healthy choices canteen.

Hastings Girls' High School principal Geraldine Travers said it was an issue, and "education is the only answer".

Actions have been taken overseas to limit unhealthy food outlets around schools, but New Zealand's Local Government Act does not include provisions for local councils to allow them to enact similar zoning policies.

Lead researcher of the study Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere said the Resource Management Act, 1991, could be revised to allow for limiting new food outlets in school neighbourhoods by councils.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said council could not stop food, which some people thought was unhealthy, being sold.

"The issue ... is that people eat too much of these things," he said. "The matter of the fact is people need to make the choices themselves, and we need to be educating people to make good choices."

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said he did not like the idea of fast food outlets being near schools, but it was more complicated when schools were located in already existing commercial zones. He did not think it would not be possible for local government to create regulations around proximity.