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"We have to lead by example and this is the reason we are going smokefree,''Arai Te Uru kaumatua Barney Taiapa said.
"For us, it is about health... unless our people are healthy our language won't survive. We need healthy people.''
A smoker since he was 15, Mr Taiapa said he planned to give up his 12-cigarette-a-day habit and the marae going smokefree was a way to "kick it in the butt''.
"With the grounds being smokefree it means I have further to walk, so I guess it is a good time to give up,'' he said.
Previously, people smoked at the back of the marae, but its new smokefree policy meant people had to smoke away from the building and its grounds, "right in the direction of the southerly'', said Mr Taiapa.
The idea to become Otago's first smokefree marae came from the marae's council and was supported by Public Health South, health promotion adviser Morehu Solomon said.
"While the marae itself is smokefree, previously people smoked around the marae, but this initiative is forcing people to smoke away from the site.
"It is about promoting a healthy lifestyle and having positive role-models for our children,'' he said.
Public Health South was in discussions with the marae at Moeraki to go smokefree, with more marae in Otago likely to become smokefree in the future, Mr Solomon said.