Aquatic Centre discussions take turn

Timaru Mayor Janie Annear has knocked back an offer of health board sponsorship for the new Aquatic Centre – in return for putting fluoride in the water supply.

A discussion about whether the South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) should sponsor the Timaru District Council's new $23.5 million Aquatic Centre to the tune of $25,000 annually, took an interesting turn at a meeting yesterday when board member Fiona Pimm suggested fluoride become part of the equation.

The SCDHB was investigating the option of contributing $25,000 annually in return for access to subsidised swimming for patients and staff.

`At the very least the pool should be fluoridated because the kids take in mouthfuls there," Ms Pimm said.

"If we are talking sponsorship what are they going to do to support us?"

Chief executive Chris Fleming agreed, saying: "We are going to support you, what are you doing for us?"

Timaru District Mayor Janie Annear was not keen on sponsorship with conditions.

"We won't be wanting their money if they want to tie it up with fluoridation.

"I'm not surprised by the idea, the Ministry of Health has a strong belief water should be fluoridated and probably expects the DHBs to bring it up when they can.

"We have been there and done that, the council's stance has always been if the Government feels that strongly about the health benefit they should change the legislation and pay for it [fluoridation]." She did not believe the SCDHB was serious about the idea.

"I think it was just a cast-off line from Fiona and there is no point anyway because we won't change our mind."

Fluoride Action Network member Imelda Hitchcock said the issue had been and gone.

"We had the referendum and people of Timaru don't want it so why do they [the SCDHB] keep pushing it?"

SCDHB general manager of planning and funding Margaret Hill said several approaches had been made for funds.

"There is a significant amount of research linking the benefits of swimming on our health and wellbeing.

"The tension comes, however, in terms of whether SCDHB should provide any level of sponsorship funding ... we are a publicly funded organisation and need to demonstrate how our financial decisions directly link into health and disability services." The SCDHB would require a tangible benefit, she said, in terms of benefit to staff and patients, possibly through subsidised swimming.


The first referendum on fluoridation in South Canterbury was held in 1966, where it was decided putting fluoride in the water was not needed. Timaru's water supply eventually contained fluoride from 1973 to 1985. There have been other referendums and council meetings in recent times on whether to reintroduce fluoridation, and it remains a contentious issue.

The Timaru Herald