The Christchurch City Council wants to retain the power to fluoridate drinking water.
A bill is making its way through Parliament proposing to take the decision to fluoridate away from councils and give it to district health boards (DHBs).
In a draft submission published earlier this week, the council wanted the Director General of Health, not DHBs, to make the decision, but a final submission approved by the council on Thursday took a stronger approach and opposed the bill completely, leaving it with the ability to make the decision.
Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the bill would take away the need to consult with the community before fluoridating water, which was why the council opposed it.
Councils have a legal obligation to consult before making such decisions.
The bill stated 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. The bill passed its first reading and is open for public comment until February 2.
If the bill was enacted, the council believed the Government should fully fund both the costs of the initial fluoridation and the ongoing operational costs.
Dalziel said she did not want to see the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) lumbered with the cost of fluoridation.
“I’m not in favour of seeing the DHB more underfunded as a result of any decision it wanted to make regarding fluoridation.”
Christchurch is New Zealand’s largest city without a fluoridated drinking water supply.
The city’s water is entirely untreated, due to its high-quality source: water that falls as rain high in the Southern Alps, then flows down the Waimakariri River and seeps into aquifers beneath the city.
The council’s submission said the Christchurch public were well aware there were no additives in the water supply and many had tasted water in other places where additives such as chlorine and fluoride had been added.
“Having quality water with no chlorine or other additives was one of the key sources of pride in Christchurch water.”
Cr Aaron Keown, who is a member of the CDHB and has publicly stated he supports fluoridation, declared an interest in the topic and did not participate in the discussion during the meeting.