Hawke’s Bay District Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee has foiled attempts by the Hastings District Council to publicly debate fluoridation.
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule told Hawke’s Bay Today he was disappointed Dr Snee declined to engage in a council-controlled public debate on the pros and cons of adding fluoride to the Hastings water supply, leading up to a referendum on the matter in October.
Mr Yule said the council had offered to host an independently mediated debate so the public could hear both sides of the issue, but Dr Snee declined.
“Personally I found it disappointing because that’s what a referendum is about – letting people make democratic decisions based on the information,” Mr Yule said.
“One of our roles as council is to try and put issues before the public – get the best information and let themselves make up their own mind. That’s what we did with the contentious issue of GE-free, that’s what we will do on October 11 for oil and gas, and I consider the fluoride issue as no different.”
He said the debate would have been “absolutely controlled” to avoid unruly behaviour.
“We had the same conversations in the council chambers – there was no amateur dramatics – both sides presented, everybody respected even though they might not have agreed and everybody was allowed their say.”
Yet the health board boss defended his stance. “We have made it quite clear from the start that we would not engage with the amateur dramatics of the lobby,” Dr Snee said.
The chief executive was involved in dramatics of his own on Thursday after he removed and stomped on anti-fluoride protest signs placed outside the Havelock North Community Centre.
The group had held a public information meeting at the centre immediately before the DHB’s public meeting on the same issue, because they were prohibited from presenting their view at the DHB’s forum.
Fluoride Free Hastings spokeswoman Angela Hair said all signs had been removed from around the room the DHB was going to use and they were then displayed on the grass outside the Community Centre, near its entrance. “He obviously got ropeable,” she said.
Dr Snee said the anti-fluoride group had a history of letting their heart rule their mind.
“What they have been trying to do is subvert the meetings – make a lot of noise and disrupt things. That’s what we’ve been trying to avoid and that’s what you saw on the front page of the paper [yesterday].”
Dr Snee said the fluoride debate needed to be measured and based on facts.
The DHB has spent $50,000 on a campaign to keep fluoride in the Hastings water supply.