Fluoridation of Waipa drinking water could happen
Waipa District Council is backing a plan to hand decisions over fluoridation to District Health Boards.
The move has disappointed Fluoride Free New Zealand which believed the community hasn't had a say on the matter.
The lobby group was critical of the Waipa council, which it said had opened the door for fluoridation of the district's drinking water.
Waipa's water is not currently fluoridated.
Waipa Mayor Jim Mylchreest said however, people did have an opportunity to provide feedback, through the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill.
He defended his council's decision not to consult over the matter, pointing to a Local Government New Zealand decision asking central Government to take over decisions on fluoridation.
The Bill is at the Select Committee stage.
If passed, it gives power to the Waikato District Health Board to make directions about fluoridation of Waipa's drinking water supplies.
Fluoride Free New Zealand spokesman Kane Titchener said he was not impressed by the council's attitude.
He said the proposed process was "fundamentally flawed". There would be a 10-person board making the decisions and it would include four government appointees and six members elected from the community.
Their level of understanding of fluoridation would be no greater than local councillors making the decisions, Titchener said.
"Under DHB control, fluoridation won't be stopped and soon it will be added to areas like Waipa who have never seen it before," said Titchener.
"Council's discussions and decisions were taken behind closed doors at a public excluded workshop, no formal resolution was taken regarding making a submission on behalf of the district."
Defending council's reasoning not to consult, Mylchreest said his council supported the Ministry of Health making the decision.
Mylchreest acknowledged there was "significant debate" on whether or not fluoride provided public health benefits and the ethical arguments about whether or not there should be mass medication.
"For council to sift through the huge amount of information from both sides of the argument would require technical advice from consultants which is extremely costly and is the main reason that local government took a unified approach to the debate rather than repeating it up and down the country."
Mylchreest defended the democratic process where 1352 people were able to have their say on the Bill before Parliament.
Mylchreest, in an email to Titchner, said if the DHB decided to add fluoride to Waipa's water supply, the council would "obviously comply with their direction".
Under the recommendations in the Bill, If councils refuse to comply with the directive of the DHB they could face fines of $200,000 and an additional $100,000 a day.