Council backs fluoride for towns

"We have been put in a very difficult position."

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012
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Mayor Ross Dunlop

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Patea and Waverley's water will be fluoridated for the first time, with the controversial practice getting majority support from the South Taranaki District Council.

During a special meeting held yesterday, councillors voted 10-3 to put the chemical in the water supply.

The council received 508 submissions on the issue. A total of 345 didn't want it introduced, and 163 were for the idea.

However, instead of voting with the people, councillors voted with the scientific evidence.

Mayor Ross Dunlop said the council had taken the advice of numerous medical agencies including the Ministry of Health, the Taranaki District Health Board and the Dental Association.

"And most importantly we have heard from those working in the field - dentist, dental therapist and local GPs who all spoke in favour of fluoridation," he said.

Mr Dunlop said he accepted the majority of submissions opposed the plan, but it wasn't simply a poll.

"We have been put in a very difficult position to sort fact from fiction in this complex matter," he said.

"In all council decisions we seek expert advice and in this issue the experts, and those mandated to speak up for public health, have spoken loudly and convincingly.

"This is the single most important thing our council can do to improve the [oral] health of our children and adults in Patea and Waverley."

He said those who opposed the practice needed to campaign the world's leading health organisations and not the council.

Both councillors Michael Self and Bonita Bigham, who opposed the idea, said more needed to be done to address the issue of poverty, which was linked to poor oral hygiene.

Mr Self said the need for fluoridated water should be taken as a sign to do more.

"I believe, as a council, if we decide to go ahead with fluoridation we have got to make sure we just don't stop there."

He said the money that would be spent getting the system up and running could be better spent on healthy lunches.

Ms Bigham said mass-medicating was just a bandage that encroached on people's freedom of choice.

"We all know Maori suffer badly in most areas of health.

"Are we going to medicate for everything?"

She said the council was the "meat in the sandwich" and fluoride should be legislated at a higher level.

Deputy mayor Alex Ballantyne said those who opposed fluoride failed to stump up with any credible facts.

He said the weight of evidence in support was the difference "between a mountain and a feather".

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"It's such a shame that other councils have been influenced by what I consider to be just straight out scaremongering."

Earlier this year the Stratford District Council voted unanimously in support of fluoridating the region's water, while the New Plymouth District Council voted to remove fluoride from its water last year.

FLUORIDE VOTE

FOR: Councillors Ian Wards, Kirsty Bourke, Mike Powell, Kelly Judkins, Peter Johnson, Te Aroha Hohaia, Andy Beccard, Ian Armstrong, Alex Ballantyne and Mayor Ross Dunlop.

AGAINST: Councillors Gordon Lawson, Bonita Bigham and Michael Self.

- Taranaki Daily News

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