A mandate to fluoridate the water supply in Nelson will get kick-started with council funding before applying for back-payment from the Government’s roughly $11 million fund.
At the end of last month, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield ordered 14 local authorities, including Nelson, to add fluoride to some or all of their water supplies.
Nelson City Council was given a maximum of 18 months to fluoridate the water supply, and at Thursday’s meeting of the infrastructure committee voted to get the ball rolling with $60,000 in council funding to help meet the deadline.
Nelson mayor Rachel Reese emphasised that the decision being made was not whether to fluoridate water, but whether to add the capital funding to the 2022-23 financial year to get started on the mandated fluoridation.
Though the plan was to apply to the Government’s fund to re-fund both the $60,000 and to pay for other expected costs of setting up the fluoridation systems, she said she would not be disappointed even if the initial council funding was not covered by the Government for some reason.
“The amount that is being asked for, of $60,000, to be perfectly honest … if that ended up being Nelson city’s contribution to the health and wellbeing of our tamariki, then that is money well-spent,” she said.
Public health advocate for Nelson Marlborough Primary Health service Te Whata Ora Doctor Rob Beaglehole spoke to the councillors about the effects that fluoride would have for both young and old, even bringing a sample of teeth to demonstrate.
“I’ve taken out 45,000 teeth in my career,” he said.
“Those teeth came from a little boy, he was three, he’d come to see me [in] lots of pain and suffering for two weeks. I took out 10 of his teeth. It’s not uncommon for us at hospital to take out 10 to 15 teeth from kids as young as 18 months, still in nappies.”
Beaglehole said fluoridation would “dramatically reduce the amount of pain and suffering here in Nelson”, with an approximately 40% reduction in tooth decay in children and a 35% reduction for adults.
He said like all issues there would be “those who have opposing views to science”, but everything said in support of fluoridating water supplies was backed by evidence.
“The science is sort of done and dusted.”
Councillor Trudie Brand emphasised the importance of a Governmental communications strategy to engage the public and educate on different aspects of the issue “instead of it just being about Coke, because it’s not just about Coke”.
Councillor Gaile Noonan voted against the $60,000 budget not because of her views on fluoride, but on the principle of the Government giving local authorities more work without offering the funding or staff to do it.
“I think it’s time that when they hand something down to us they actually give us the budget that goes with it, and I hope in the future they will,” she said.
“This is not a debate on whether we fluoridate our water – they have mandated that, that is a given; but when they do that they need to provide resources and funding, that’s why I’m not supporting this.”
Tim Skinner also voted against the funding.
*Original article online at https://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/129747703/council-kickstarts-fluoridation-rollout-after-government-mandate