AS work begins on the Northern Water Scheme, which will pump fluoridated water from Dunedin’s Mount Grand water treatment station to Waitati, Warrington and Seacliff, there are rumblings of discontent from residents of the seaside communities. None of the townships presently have fluoride in their water.
At a public meeting in Waitati on Monday night, attended by about 45 people, the message for Dunedin City Council was loud and clear – “No” to fluoride. Many also expressed annoyance that the water scheme would result in unwanted “mass medication” for the Blueskin Bay district.
Organised by Waitati resident and Fluoride Action Network representative Olive McRae, the meeting featured presentations by several long-standing campaigners, including Dr Bruce Spittle, of Dunedin, Don Church, of Ashburton, Imelda Hitchcock, of Timaru, and Yvonne McDonald, of Christchurch. The meeting was chaired by Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Alasdair Morrison in his private capacity as a resident of the area, and Dunedin City Councillor Andrew Noone arrived as the meeting was in progress.
Ms McRae told the meeting that, despite strenuous efforts, she had been unable to secure pro-fluoride speakers to attend. Because of this, the case for adding fluoride to public water supplies was outlined in a printout from the Waitaki District Council – read to the meeting by Don Church.
An anti-fluoride campaigner in Ashburton since the 1950s, Mr Church told the meeting the health effects of fluoride were cumulative in the body, and that it was difficult to filter it out of drinking water. He also disputed its effectiveness against tooth decay, saying that statistics showed the worst tooth decay in the South Island could be seen in its fluoridated areas – Otago and Southland.
Mr Church also expressed concern that he substance used to fluoridate water was silicofluoride, a “waste product from fertiliser production”, not calcium fluoride.
Retired psychiatrist and lecturer Dr Bruce Spittle spoke of the health effects of “chronic fluoride toxicity syndrome”, telling the audience it could damage the brain, cause intestinal problems, aching joints and more. He displayed a large stack of research reports to back up his opinion.
Dr Spittle concluded his presentation by playing guitar and singing an amusing song outlining the evils of fluoridation.
Imelda Hitchcock and Yvonne McDonald described successful anti-fluoride campaigns they had been involved in Timaru and Christchurch respectively. Both urged the meeting to campaign for a referendum on the issue in Blueskin Bay.
“Given the opportunity of a referendum, it is our experience that people reject fluoride nearly every time,” Mrs Hitchcock said.
“As the council is about to upgrade it’s fluoride feeder equipment, I believe it should be possible for them to keep it out of the pipeline water,” Ms McRae said.
Asked for a show of hands to indicate whether they would agree to fluoridation the meeting indicated “No” by an overwhelming majority. Only one person voted a definite “Yes”.
Ms McRae told the meeting she planned to petition the Dunedin City Council to hold a referendum so that “we can decide for our own area”.
“The bottom line is, no-one has the right to medicate people without our consent.”
In response to a question, Cr Andrew Noone said he commended Ms McRae for her efforts in raising awareness of the issue, and that he would support the idea of a referendum in the area.
Mr Morrison told the meeting that, if a petition was received by the community board, it may “have to ask some questions” on the issue.
CAPTION UNDER PHOTO:
Campaigners: Anti-fluoride campaigners (from left) Olive McRae, of Waitati, Don Church, of Ashburton, Imelda Hitchcock, of Timaru, Dr Bruce Spittle, of Dunedin, and Yvonne McDonald, of Christchurch, gather after Monday’s night’s fluoridation meeting at Waitati Hall.