Fluoridation a 'national issue'

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:36 21/07/2014

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Local body representatives want the Government to take the reins when it comes to fluoridating water supplies.

At the annual Local Government NZ conference in Nelson yesterday, delegates from councils around New Zealand voted in favour of Local Government NZ advocating the Government on three key issues.

These were putting the decision-making power on fluoridation in the hands of the Health Ministry's director general, central government giving more support to owners of earthquake-prone buildings, and for the organisation to develop a clear policy on how local authorities can be reorganised and amalgamated. Kapiti Coast District mayor Ross Church put the fluoridation proposal in front of delegates and said leaving the decision to local authorities resulted in inconsistent polices and wasted money and resources as councils seesawed on fluoridating water supplies.

"It's not a decision for us for lots of reasons. We are not scientists and there is no local in fluoride - nobody can tell me why it's a local issue," he said.

"It's a national health issue and so that's why it should go to a national level."

He said there was overwhelming support at the Local Government NZ's annual meeting for the issue to be handled by central government, but some authorities without fluoride in their water supplies were understandably worried about becoming involved in the issue and upsetting residents by having to introduce fluoride.

When it came to amalgamating, delegates voted in favour of Local Government NZ forming a new policy position on legislation and the governing process used to reorganise local bodies.

Representatives want no changes to be made to local authorities against the wishes of a majority of potential voters, for independent expert evidence to show the benefits outweigh the costs of amalgamations, and for all current and potential amalgamation proposals to be postponed until legislation is changed.

Following the meeting, Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule officially opened the conference, saying the organisation's No 1 concern and priority was supporting the future of provincial New Zealand.

"What is clear is that, in the medium term, there are some clouds over the future of provincial New Zealand. Jobs and essential services will be stretched and population changes will add financial pressures on local government."

This was at odds with what the provinces contributed to the national economy and needed to be addressed, he said.

"LGNZ wants regional New Zealand to be confident about its future as our cities," said Yule.

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"We are seeing a commitment from national government to work on a joint national strategy to strengthen the future of provincial New Zealand and ensure growth across all of the country."

He said focusing on building economies and "investing in natural and human capital in the provinces so they continue to prosper" was crucial.

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett said she heard the concerns about provincial New Zealand and the Government was on board with the idea of empowering powering local economies and building vibrant communities.

She also said there would be no more legislative overhauls for local government and told the audience about the need to work together on key priorities through good communication channels.

- The Nelson Mail

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