Napier's Port Ahuriri School has withdrawn its plans to sell beer and wine at an upcoming fundraising event, after strong opposition from health professionals.
The festival has been held annually for more than 10 years, and had until recent years been known as a Wine and Food Festival. The school had planned to sell liquor at the event on school grounds on the evening of Friday, November 9.
An objection was lodged by the Hawke's Bay District Health Board against an application by the school. It is the fourth year in a row that the selling of liquor at the event has been opposed by the board through Medical Officer of Health Dr Rachel Eyre, who argues the consumption of alcohol on school grounds in the presence of children is inappropriate.
In a statement, the Hawke's Bay District Health Board said they were "pleased" with the school's decision.
"The district health board, through its Medical Officer of Health, has a legislative requirement under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (2012) to raise concerns about alcohol related harm, especially as the license was for a bar on school grounds in the presence of children and pre-schoolers in a school environment.
"The district health board has opposed all past applications for this license and has tried on numerous occasions to make contact with the school and its Board of Trustees, to discuss the planned fundraiser both this year and in previous years."
Hawke's Bay paediatrician and former Children's Commisioner Dr Russell Wills said this wasn't just about Port Ahuriri School; it was about the wider health concerns of alcohol related harm and the messages of drinking on school grounds and around young children.
"Hawke's Bay is in the top three of district health boards with the highest proportion of hazardous drinkers per capita.
"The number of people needing hospital care in Hawke's Bay as a direct result of alcohol has risen by nearly 100 percent from 2009 to 2016. This comes with a cost of $3 million in hospital stays.
Dr Wills said he understood that schools needed to fundraise to supplement their incomes but there were many other ways to do this. If schools were determined to have alcohol fundraisers they needed to think about the venue and not have children present.
"I don't think anyone could disagree that alcohol and schools don't mix."
Hawke's Bay Primary Principals' Association president Maurice Rehu supported the DHB's position.
"I believe that alcohol and children don't mix and it is not a fundraiser that I would endorse in my school community. I understand after 12 years of fundraising in this way, this might be a challenge for principals, school leaders and [board of trustees] to hear but the culture of drinking in New Zealand is not that flash and we need be role models."