Fluoride compromise might backfire

MATHEW GROCOTT - DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF
Last updated 12:00 04/06/2014

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OPINION: Fluoride is perhaps the most divisive issue councils have to grapple with each year when they ask for the public's thoughts on their Annual Plan.

There is a minority who are staunchly opposed to adding the substance to our municipal water.

They submit in far greater numbers than those who support fluoridation, which has been the status quo in Palmerston North for some time.

Nationwide the protests over fluoride have grown louder in the past few years. In other parts of the country there have been public referenda and even court battles.

And so it seems that this year, having prevaricated last year because they wanted more information, Palmerston North City Council has decided it has to listen to the sceptics.

Yet rather than giving the anti-fluoride brigade what they want, the removal of fluoride from the city's water, the council has come up with a compromise nobody asked for.

The council will spend $15,000 so people who want fluoride-free water can fill containers at one of Palmerston North's artesian bores. It will also continue to add fluoride to the town's drinking water, at an annual cost of about $40,000.

Effectively the council is still sitting on the fence, and spending $55,000 of ratepayers money to do so.

The council, to borrow another metaphor, is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

It's somewhat strange that local authorities are expected to assess the science, and actually quite remarkable that such public health matters are left in their hands.

Perhaps after several years of saying no, but not having the anti-fluoride campaigners go away, the council felt it had to offer some sort of olive branch.

What the move will likely do, though, is convince fluoride campaigners that the council's resolve is budging and inspire even more submissions next year.

The anti-fluoride brigade is ardent and unlikely to go away.

Fluoridation is backed by the World Health Organisation and the New Zealand Dental Association. The council needs to stand firm and remember that just because someone is making the most noise, it doesn't mean that they are correct.

ONE MORE THING

The potential for Wellington train commuters to be able to use their MetLink tickets on the Capital Connection is great news for supporters of the train.

KiwiRail seem happy to go along with the plan and so it just needs Horizons Regional Council to reach an agreement with its Greater Wellington counterparts.

If the move goes ahead, then it should mean more revenue for the connection, which is sorely needed.

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- Manawatu Standard

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