Council fluoride move met with applause

Photo: File
Photo: ODT files
The Waitaki District Council will consider advocating to the government for the right to decide if its water should be fluoridated.

It will also request an extension on the directive to fluoridate issued by the Ministry of Health, which will affect Oamaru’s water supply by the end of June this year.

The move was met with applause by members of Waitaki’s anti-fluoride community, which last month delivered the council a 554-signature petition asking for it to stop all fluoridation plans.

About 35 members of the public crowded around the council meeting yesterday, which only had about 10 seats readily available for guests.

Councillors agreed to request an extension on the directive, which has been granted to other councils in New Zealand.

Although it was not in the recommendations given to councillors by staff, Cr Jim Hopkins took the issue further.

He moved that the council "considers advocating to Parliament on its own behalf, arguing that the principle of localism should apply and that the addition of fluoride to water supplies should therefore be discretionary".

It was seconded by Cr Rebecca Ryan.

When contacted by the Otago Daily Times after the meeting, Cr Hopkins said the motion was only to consider advocating and the council would need to discuss if and how it would do so.

The government had been pushing for community-based decision-making and this was a perfect example of where it could be applied, he said.

"Put your money where your mouth is and let councils make their own decision."

He questioned whether it was possible for consumers of a water source to give informed consent and wished there would be more academic debate on the issue.

In the meeting deputy mayor Hana Halalele said it was good to see there was an engaged community around the topic, but it was important to consider accessibility and health equity.

"People in our community, they don’t have the access to the healthcare that they need."

That would have been taken into consideration when the directive was issued to councils, Cr Halalele said.

Cr Ryan said she seconded the motion because she was a big supporter of localism and there had been strong engagement from the community on the issue.

Fluoride Free Waitaki spokeswoman Sheryl Black said the council response was "amazing".

"We are really thrilled that the council is being so responsive to its community."

Residents in other districts were opposing fluoridation as well and the Waitaki District Council was being held up "as a great example of a council that is being responsive to their community", she said.

The order to fluoridate was sent to 14 councils around New Zealand in 2022 by then director general of health Sir Ashley Bloomfield.

The decision was found to be unlawful in November last year by the High Court, as Sir Ashley did not make consideration of the Bill of Rights Act, which allows anybody to refuse medical treatment.

The Ministry of Health is appealing the decision and whether the order will stand is still unknown.