Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull yesterday compared anti-fluoride campaigners to people who believe they have been abducted by aliens.
Mr Cull made the comments as the council considered a staff report at yesterday’s annual plan budget meeting, which outlined three options for offering non-fluoridated drinking water.
The council opted to encourage “point-of-use” filters – which cost between $100 and $400 – for those worried about the health effects of fluoride, rather than other options, which involved the council spending up to $150,000 on public taps.
However, the council’s recommendation did not include the potentially costly option of subsidising the point-of-use filters.
When it came to subsidising the taps Mr Cull was unequivocal, saying: “The advice we have got so far is that the amount of fluoride we put in our water is not harmful.
“I don’t think that we are as a council obligated to provide a service for a very small minority of people.
“If someone came along here and said they were being abducted by aliens, would we put in protection measures so that they weren’t?”
Cr Mike Lord said he supported people worried about fluoride paying for their own filters, saying anti-fluoride campaigners were a “very organised lobby group”, which did not necessarily represent a large proportion of the population.
Cr Richard Thompson took issue with the motion, saying it essentially meant the council was doing nothing.
“I cannot see the point in voting for a motion that is effectively a motion to do nothing,” he said.
Those in the health sector needed to do a better job of educating the public about the benefits of fluoridating water, Cr Thompson said.
Both he and Cr Jinty MacTavish, while believing fluoridated drinking water was safe, supported staff looking into the option of installing basic taps, which filtered out fluoride.
Cr MacTavish said it would likely cost very little – possibly a one-off cost of $400, then $50 a year – to install a public tap at an already monitored location such as the council toilets in Municipal Lane.
“To me it doesn’t seem like a large amount to alleviate concerns of a large number of residents.”
Cr David Benson-Pope said he disagreed the motion meant the council was doing nothing.
“This gives a clear view of what the council’s position is,” he said.
Council staff have been considering the issue since last year’s annual plan meetings, when councillors voted to ask staff to investigate options for a non-fluoridated drinking water supply.
That move came after the council received 34 public submissions on fluoride – more than any other subject – most being against the chemical being added to drinking water for oral health benefits.