The Timaru District Council will receive half the setting up cost of fluoridating its water supply under a new Government public health measure.
But while the Ministry of Health wants all local bodies to fluoridate their water, Timaru mayor Wynne Raymond has signalled such a move is unlikely here because of the strength of public opposition.
And anti-fluoridation campaigner Imelda Hitchcock has labelled the funding assistance a bribe.
The funding should be available next month, and the scheme will also see a new information service in place next year aimed at persuading more New Zealand communities to fluoridate their water.
Director of Public Health Dr Colin Tukuitonga says the contract for the new national co-ordination service, to raise awareness of the benefits of fluoridated water, is expected to be finalised in January.
“It reflects the need for communities and the councils that represent them to have access to timely and accurate information about public health considerations when making decisions about water fluoridation.
“Local authorities are responsible under both the Health Act and the Local Government Act to provide for the health and wellbeing of the public.”
But Timaru anti-fluoride campaigner Imelda Hitchcock said if they tried to put fluoride back in the local water supply, people would go crazy.
“We have told them often enough we don’t want it. They had the referendum which cost $42,000 and an overwhelming majority of people said they didn’t want it.
“The latest data coming through now is that it is not systemic but topically applied fluoride that gives the benefit.
“They are using taxpayers’ money for something they don’t want. That’s not right.”
Mrs Hitchcock said the money offered was a subsidy and there was a new way of spelling subsidy today — BRIBE.
Timaru mayor Wynne Raymond said that while he supported what Dr Tukuitonga said, he did not believe the council would impose fluoridation on people.
“I personally believe that fluoridation is a very good health measure and I would like to see an education programme which would help Timaru people accept that there is no harm in putting fluoride in the water supply.
“However, I don’t believe this council will impose fluoride on Timaru people when they don’t want it.
“Timaru people have told us time and time again they do not want it.”
Dr Tukuitonga said the new service would be pivotal in persuading more communities to fluoridate their water supplies. Currently, 56 per cent of New Zealanders have access to fluoridated water.
“The World Health Organisation recommends water fluoridation as the best way to improve oral health, major international studies highlight the benefits, and the extensive and ongoing research shows there are no significant adverse health effects from fluoridation.”
Timaru dental association spokesperson Mark Goodhew is also strongly supportive of the move.
He said fluoridation was a well proven, scientifically valid method of improving dental health and would be money well spent.