The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) has failed to make a submission on a controversial fluoridation bill because disagreements meant it ran out of time.
The Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill proposes to take the decision to fluoridate away from councils and give it to district health boards (DHBs). The bill passed its first reading and was open for public comment until February 2.
CDHB member Jo Kane said she was “really cross” the board did not make a submission on behalf of the community.
She said the draft submission did not go through because board members went “back and forth in a flood of emails”, arguing over what should and should not be included. Time ran out and the submission was pulled, she said
CDHB chief executive David Meates said the board did not submit because of timing issues, with this year’s first board meeting falling outside of the submission deadline.
The board members had not had an opportunity to discuss the draft submission.
The South Canterbury DHB’s submission was the same Canterbury would have considered, had the timing been different, he said.
The CDHB has long supported fluoridation, signing a position statement in support in 2003.
Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey said the CDHB should have made a submission on the “very important issue” of fluoridation.
“It’s a great shame that more time was not made available for the submission process.”
The bill affected Canterbury more than other districts because Christchurch was New Zealand’s largest city without a fluoridated drinking water supply, he said.
The bill stated city or district councils would still have to pay the cost of setting up and maintaining fluoridation, regardless of who made the decision. In Christchurch, fluoridating the city’s water is estimated to cost $10.5 million initially and $500,000 annually.
Kane said the Government should take the lead on fluoridation. Health boards around the country were under a lot of pressure and did not have the time and resources to enforce water fluoridation.
“It’s going to be a huge distraction from more pressing issues.”
CDHB board member Sally Buck said she was opposed to the CDHB making the decision.
“At this point in time, the CDHB certainly does not need to become embroiled in a lengthy, costly and most likely legal battle about whether or not the water is fluoridated.”
She did not think the CDHB should make a decision about something the city council would have to fund.
Board member Andy Dickerson, who opposed fluoridation, agreed.
“I do not support the principle that the DHB should be able to instruct a ratepayer-funded organisation [the council] how they must allocate their resources.”
In its submission, the Christchurch City Council opposed the bill, saying it wanted to retain the power to choose whether or not to fluoridate drinking water.
Community dental services clinical director Dr Martin Lee said last year fluoridation was the most cost-effective, practical and safe means for reducing tooth decay.
One in three Canterbury pre-schoolers start school with tooth decay, with rates higher among Maori and Pacific children, CDHB 2015 figures show.
Water fluoridation has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation.
• Original article at http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/89105477/canterbury-district-health-board-fails-to-submit-on-controversial-fluoridation-bill — Note that the article was published on February 7, 2017