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Hamilton to end fluoride in water

Hamilton to end fluoride in water

5 June 2013

For Immediate Release

Hamilton City Council has voted overwhelmingly to remove fluoride from the city’s water.

After four days of submissions a council tribunal today voted 7-1 to stop the practice of adding fluoride to the public water supply from no later than 21 June when stocks run out. The tribunal was presented with research from experts and interested parties on both sides of the debate, although the majority were against fluoride.

Mayor Julie Hardaker tabled the motion to remove fluoride, seconded by Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman. Councillors on the tribunal to agree were Daphne Bell, Margaret Forsyth, Roger Hennebry, Dave Macpherson and Angela O’Leary. Peter Bos was the only vote against.

Three councillors who are also on the Waikato District Health Board – Martin Gallagher, Pippa Mahood and Ewan Wilson – did not take part in the tribunal, along with John Gower and Maria Westphal due to previously stated views on fluoride.

The Council will be writing to Health Minister Tony Ryall, expressing its view that public water fluoridation is a health issue which central government should determine.

That point was stressed by Mayor Julie Hardaker today. “This is a matter for central government – not a local government job.

Ms Hardaker, who thanked submitters for their “respectful and considered” presentations, said the tribunal process gave the opportunity to see the two different views put forward by experts and community members to help make the decision.

She said there needed to be compelling reasons to change the status quo – Hamilton has been adding fluoride to its water since the 1960s.

Ms Hardaker said “potential and perceived risks’’ from fluoridation were raised at the tribunal, while there was no dispute that topical applications via toothpaste were effective against tooth decay.

She felt a telling statistic was that of the 220 litres of water a day used by the average Hamilton person, only about 2 litres was consumed and the rest went to the wastewater system.

Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman said he was not satisfied fluoridation had achieved benefits “beyond reasonable doubt’’.

He urged the Government to crack down on sugar-laden drinks, which many tribunal submissions linked to dental decay, suggesting they be taxed like alcohol and tobacco.

He noted only 23 of 67 New Zealand councils still added fluoride as public opinion was changing. “Fluoride must go. Fluoride is not beyond reasonable doubt.”

Sugary drinks were a common target among councillors. “Sugar is enemy No 1,” said Cr Hennebry.

Cr Bell said she was going against her dentist’s advice in voting for “freedom of choice’’. Cr Forsyth said she now had “sufficient doubt’’ about fluoride. Cr Macpherson said he was convinced fluoride was not safe, while Cr O’Leary strongly supported the motion and thought the tribunal had been a “really great process’’.

Cr Bos, speaking against the motion, wanted a referendum on fluoride at the elections later this year. “I think we are making a mistake. This should go to the people.”

Several councillors also mentioned the work of Council staff in co-ordinating the 1557 submissions and running the tribunal. “I want to thank everyone involved,” said Ms Hardaker. “This was an exercise in how democracy works.’’

The vote was greeted with applause from about 20 people in the public gallery.

The Council will make annual savings of $48,000 by removing fluoride. How that saving is used will be discussed at the Annual Plan deliberations tomorrow. An amendment by Cr Macpherson, seconded by Cr Hennebry, to spend the $48,000 on increasing the Waikato District Health Board’s dental health education and intervention programme was lost in a 6-2 vote.


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