Warrnambool sport and recreation venues go smoke-free

Warrnambool will have some of the state’s most comprehensive smoking bans from next week when new statewide health rules for recreation venues kick in on Tuesday.

While all municipalities across Victoria will have to apply a 10-metre exclusion zone where children and teenagers play, Warrnambool City Council has extended the ban to all of its venues 24 hours a day.

That means footy fans next weekend won’t be able to light up within 10 metres of the oval, netball courts, toilet block or other buildings at the venue.

It applies to training sessions and even when there are no players or crowds at the grounds.

At Reid Oval complex, the Friendly Societies’ Park and Bushfield Recreation Reserve smoking will be banned everywhere inside the perimeter fences. 

Harris Street Reserve soccer oval and dog training lawns will also be an exclusion zone as will the skate park, BMX track, AquaZone and playgrounds within Victoria Park, Albert Park and other passive recreation areas.

Allansford Recreation Reserve committee of management will decide next week how it will apply the bans.

Clubs can decide to designate a smoking area if it complies with the 10-metre rule.

Technically a $285 on-the-spot fine will apply to offenders, but the council and sports officials are hoping community commonsense will prevail as the regime is introduced.

Clubs don’t have legal power to enforce the rule, but can ask for council local laws officers to step in to caution or fine offending patrons.

The April 1 rules come on top of earlier bans introduced at Warrnambool’s main beach and council-owned public buildings including the art gallery, civic centre and Lighthouse Theatre where smoking is prohibited within 10 metres of entrance doors.

Last year councillors decided to trial smoking bans at only three sports venues, but then widened it to all grounds to reduce confusion with the junior sports bans.

The council has identified smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in Warrnambool with a recent report showing 23 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women in the city as smokers — higher than the state average.

“It’s not just a focus on sports venues, it’s all council venues,” said city recreation co-ordinator Kim White.

“We are working to assist clubs to promote it among their members.

“Hopefully commonsense will prevail, but if there are ongoing issues clubs can contact the council to seek assistance.

“We will erect signs and have information and maps on our website.”

Warrnambool and District Football Netball League president Ken McSween said there were some ambiguities with the new regulations, but he hoped the introduction would go smoothly.

“In most cases if you ask people not to smoke, generally they oblige and respect other patrons,” he said.

“We can ask, but can’t force them — the only ones who can do that are local laws officers.” 

North Warrnambool Eagles Football Netball Club president Pat Doran said the club had opted to make all of Bushfield Recreation Reserve smoke-free rather than mark an area inside the perimeter for smokers to light up.

“It’s simpler that way,” he said.

Other south-west councils indicated yesterday bans would apply just to children’s playgrounds and skate parks and sports venues during under 18 events.

Penalties of up to $144 will apply.

Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor said an educative approach would be used as people adjusted to the new laws.

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