28 Oct 2020

Auckland Halloween haven calls quits on trick or treating

From Checkpoint, 5:16 pm on 28 October 2020

A spooky spat has broken out in an Auckland neighbourhood over the future of its iconic Halloween celebrations.

Dignan Street in Point Chevalier usually welcomes hundreds of trick or treaters - but this year things are effectively being called off because of the skyrocketing numbers of kids looking for candy.

Some households have cited covid concerns, but others have raised questions about Halloween NIMBYism.

Dignan Street has become synonymous with trick or treating - hundreds of people flock there annually for twilight festivities.

But not this year, as some say the numbers have gotten out of hand. However, the call to end the tradition has polarised the street.

A message declaring the majority of Dignan residents would not be partaking went out on Facebook. It stated they had been very generous over the years, particularly with growing numbers of visitors.

Money usually spent on lollies would instead be donated to Canteen, the post said.

Halloween health hints

Deputy director of public health Dr Harriette Carr told Checkpoint New Zealand is lucky to be in Covid-19 alert level 1, meaning children can go trick or treating, but she said there should be precautions.

"If anyone is self-isolating or been told that they need to stay away from others then we recommend that they put a sign outside their house, not to trick or treat.

"Equally, anyone that is sick or feeling unwell should not go trick or treating, and should also put a sign outside their house. That's a really good way people can both protect themselves and protect others.

"Anyone handling food or lollies should always make sure their hands are clean so wash hands, or if children are going trick or treating, they've got hand sanitizer with them if they're going to be eating food or handling food.

"Then there's also people noting down where they've been. So that might be a manual entry if there's a parent going with the children noting down which houses they're going to.

"For people who are participating from their houses, there is the opportunity for them to download the Covid QR code for their house so people can scan that.

"A lot of children won't have cell phones necessarily or be able to do that. So the simplest way is to keep a record of where you've been, but for areas where there's large numbers of people coming to the houses… that might be an option."

Given New Zealand has one of the highest rates of obesity in the OECD, Halloween is "tricky" even without Covid-19, Dr Carr said

"Traditionally the expectations of children are that they will eat sweets, and the advice that we've given in the past is there are ways to reduce it so that. You can offer healthier alternatives like fruit or non-food treats like stickers.

"I've also heard of people offering toothbrushes or little tubes of toothpaste.

"So there's there's different things you can do, which don't have to be lollies. If you are doing lollies, then it's actually looking at what is perhaps reducing the number of lollies, and for parents going around talking it might be that your children have a smaller treat bag, so that it fills up faster.

"So there's different ways these offering alternatives, reducing the amount that's given and looking at other healthy options."

In response to a question about the look on a child's face when given a mandarin instead of a chocolate bar, Dr Carr said: "We have this perception that all children prefer lollies but actually you'll probably find there'll be one or two in any group that actually might prefer the mandarin."