City of Greater Bendigo backs sugary drinks levy and greater health policies in new housing developments to address obesity

A Senate inquiry is investigating ways to reduce obesity in Australia, and a sugary drinks tax is likely to be close to the top of the list.

A Senate inquiry is investigating ways to reduce obesity in Australia, and a sugary drinks tax is likely to be close to the top of the list.

THE City of Greater Bendigo has backed a nationwide tax on sugary drinks as one of a number of measures to address the “critical” impact of obesity in Bendigo – one of Victoria’s most unhealthy locations.

The council listed a “levy on high-sugar beverage manufacturers” as one of its recommendations in its submission to a Senate inquiry into the obesity epidemic in Australia.

It noted a sugary drinks tax similar to those recently introduced in the United Kingdom, Mexico, France and Norway could alleviate the impacts of obesity, along with the reintroduction of the Healthy Together agreement.

The Healthy Together agreement provided support in bringing in policies to “address local barriers” to healthy lifestyles in early years, workplaces and community settings.

The submission, penned by the council director of health and wellbeing Vicky Mason, believed local government had a unique role to play in supporting healthy lifestyles.

“Greater Bendigo has amongst the worst health outcomes in Victoria and if underlying issues are left unchecked the health outcomes for our community will continue to deteriorate causing an increased burden on the health system,” the submission reads.

“A number of restrictions are placed on local government which limit the ability of this level of government to support an environment which makes healthy choices the easy choices.”

The council urged the federal government to mandate health design and food sensitive design principles for new housing developments.

It also urged the government to make healthy eating and physical activity programs exempt from rate capping, and to improve the minimum required open space provision for new developments.

Earlier this year, the City of Greater Bendigo revealed its hands are tied when it comes to effectively controlling the number of fast food restaurants that open in the city, following the opening of the third Domino’s outlet just a few kilometres from another Domino’s outlet.

The Senate inquiry is due to report on Tuesday with a focus on addressing the “prevalence of overweight and obesity among children in Australia”, the burden of obesity on the health sector, the role of the food industry in contributing to poor diets and experience from overseas.

Bendigo was the only Victorian council to make a submission to the inquiry.

The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores also made a submission, believing it was inevitable that the inquiry would result in calls for a “fat tax”, “sugar tax” or “soft drink tax”.

It warned that such measures could have “various economic and employment implications” and believed there was a lack of evidence that such taxes would address obesity levels.

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