Putting fluoride in Hutt water may spark 'riots'

Adding fluoride would spark 'riots' in the street

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 05:00 29/07/2014

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Petone residents would "riot on the street" if fluoride were added to tap water - which might happen if the Ministry of Health takes over fluoridation decision-making from councils.

Petone and neighbouring suburb Korokoro get their tap water from the same aquifer that feeds the artesian water fountains in Buick St.

There was an outcry in the 1990s when Hutt City Council suggested adding fluoride to the supply and the reaction would be the same today, community board chairman Mike Fisher said.

"People would be rioting in the streets. They would be absolutely furious," he said. "We're very proud of our water the way it is."

Last week, the country's councils voted strongly in favour of handing fluoridation decisions to the director-general of health.

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett said she was not considering a law change but Local Government New Zealand planned to lobby the government on the issue after the election, president Lawrence Yule said.

Hutt City Council opposed the decision, which could mean one blanket rule on fluoride for the whole country, Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace said. "I can't see how [the ministry] could do anything otherwise, unless they poll in each area."

The council accepted government advice that fluoride was safe but respected the views of Petone residents who preferred aquifer water, Wallace said.

Udy St resident Alfred Memelink liked Petone's water for its taste and for health reasons.

The gallery owner said he had lived in the suburb for 52 years, since he was a baby, and his teeth were good. "You go to some other places in New Zealand and you can just taste the fluoride."

Everyday products banned for health reasons, such as mothballs and leaded petrol, were a cautionary tale for accepting current health advice on fluoride, Memelink said. "You think they know what's good and bad for you but they don't."

Kapiti Coast District Council proposed the fluoride law change because of the expense and inconsistency of decision-making across the country, mayor Ross Church said.

Kapiti council staff spent $10,000 of staff time each year hearing anti-fluoride arguments during annual plan hearings and the council was taken to the High Court this month by an anti-fluoride campaigner.

The case was dismissed but another court case cost South Taranaki District Council $220,000 in legal fees, Church said.

"That's nuts. Councillors are not the right people to make this decision. It's a very technical decision and we're not scientists."

But Hutt City councillor Max Shierlaw said councillors often dealt with complex issues. "If you think that's an issue that you can't deal with, then really you shouldn't be in local government."

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