Rural councils are unhappy about a Bill putting district health boards in charge of fluoridation, as the additive could mean big costs for rural schemes with only a few connections.
In its submission on the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill, Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley says the district’s rural water schemes are already ”struggling” to meet drinking water standards.
”Waimate District Council feels strongly that the Bill in its current form would impose undue costs on small rural councils.
”We believe that the health benefits of meeting these standards far outweigh the health benefits of fluoridation.
If the Bill goes through, the costs should fall on health boards, the submission says.
In the South, where the elected board was removed two years ago, commissioner Kathy Grant will make the fluoride decision for the region if the Bill becomes law.
The Bill does not introduce mandatory fluoridation. However, the DHBs’ public health units are uniformly in favour of it.
Mr Rowley told the Otago Daily Times the additive would cost $10,000 to establish in each of the district’s six water schemes, and then a similar cost per unit each year for maintenance.
Those costs would be felt, ”particularly when you’ve got some of our rural water schemes that only have a very limited number of users”.
Five of Waimate’s schemes are rural, and on those, most of the water was used for stock.
”We were unsure of what the effect is of having fluoridated water going to the likes of dairy sheds,” Mr Rowley said.
Southland Mayor Gary Tong said the council did not make a submission on the Bill, but it was also concerned.
”My understanding is that while the dosing costs may be minimal, the set-up of the equipment can be expensive.”
The Southern District Health Board is in favour, and its submission said fluoride resulted in a 40% reduction in tooth decay.
”Community water fluoridation is cost-effective; for every dollar spent on fluoridation, $9 is saved in dental care costs.”
The Dunedin City Council made a submission in favour of the Bill, but it, too, suggested the costs should fall on DHBs.
”The Dunedin City Council supports the intent of the proposed Bill and the provision of decision-making powers on the fluoridation of water supplies to district health boards, as the purpose of fluoridation is for health purposes.”
The Bill attracted more than 1300 submissions, some of which will be heard by the health select committee today. The committee is working through the submissions and will report back in June.
The Bill has passed its first reading.