Fluoridation may be off the Nelson City Council’s agenda but its opponents left councillors in no doubt about the depth of their feelings when they spoke at an annual plan hearing.
Although the Government has announced plans to hand the fluoridation issue to district health boards, many residents sent in submissions to the council’s draft annual plan, and Mayor Rachel Reese ruled that those wanting to follow through with verbal submissions could do so.
The submission process was a good way for councillors to connect with their community and learn more about people’s views, she said.
Anti-fluoride submissions on Tuesday ranged from carefully-researched and detailed offerings backed up with lots of paperwork to a short exposition from a man who linked the idea to an international conspiracy of Freemasons.
The presentations from individuals and the group Fluoride Free Nelson centred on what they said were the health dangers of fluoridating Nelson’s water supply, what they said were erroneous claims of benefits to dental health, and the view that introducing fluoride was a violation of medical ethics and human rights.
Several presented statistics showing the number of countries and communities around the world that have rejected it.
Representing Fluoride Free Nelson, Sara Cooper said there was research to show that fluoridation did not improve dental health and mounting evidence that swallowing it caused harm, particularly to sub-groups such as infants, the elderly and diabetics.
She said the group had 130 members including doctors, dentists and chemists and was running an on-line petition with “1000 signatures and growing”.
“Some in the membership think that fluoride is good topically [applied to teeth], some think that it’s catastrophic in any form and anywhere, but we all agree that it should not be in our water supply.”
Cooper said DHBs were mandated to follow Health Ministry policy, which was to fluoridate New Zealand’s water supply, so it was even more important for councillors to develop their understanding of the issue so they could “look after the people of Nelson, as you’ve been voted in to do so”.
Another submitter, Susan Lea, said fluoridation was “a terrible thing to do to us”.
“I don’t want to see anybody’s water fluoridated throughout the whole country, which seems to be what the Government wants to do.”
Councillors were elected to represent the people of Nelson, and their wellbeing, Lea said.
“Is the council getting paid to put fluoride in our water? It could be. Do dollars mean more than individuals?”
The two days of verbal submissions finish on Wednesday. Councillors will deliberate on the draft annual plan on May 11 and 12 and sign it off on June 2.
It comes into force on July 1.