All of Hawke’s Bay’s water supplies could be fluoridated in the future if DHBs are granted the power to make the decision.
Yesterday Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced proposed changes where DHBs rather than local authorities will decide which community water supplies are fluoridated.
Hawke’s Bay DHB clinical director for oral health Dr Robin Whyman said it was too early to say if the DHB would be moving to fluoridate the region’s water supply, but when asked did not rule out the possibility.
“In time that’s a possibility, but at the moment it’s not a decision,” he said.
He said the DHB had a strong policy in favour of water fluoridation, but there were a number of steps the DHB would take before making a decision to take to the board.
Before making any decisions, Dr Whyman said the district health board would be looking at the legislation, having consultations and discussions about fluoride, working through technical issues, and looking at the health needs of communities throughout the region. When asked about the possible costs associated with fluoridating the region’s water supply, Dr Whyman said he thought they “would reside where they are now” – with councils.
District Health Board chairman Kevin Atkinson said they had not had time to reflect on the announcement, and there was “still a lot of water to flow under the bridge” before they made any decisions.
For the 17 years Mr Atkinson had been involved with the DHB, he said the board had consistently advocated for fluoridated water.
“I can’t see us being inconsistent with our views from the Hastings referendum, which was unanimously supported by the board.”
Currently, Hastings is the only district in the Hawke’s Bay area with a fluoridated water supply.
In 2013 a Hastings council referendum decided to retain fluoride in the water supply’s of Hastings, Havelock North, and Flaxmere.
Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said LGNZ had been asking through its members for this transfer, as fluoride was a health issue that should be dealt with by government.
As Hastings mayor he said he did not think the decision “will make any material difference” to the district.
Central Hawke’s Bay had one fluoridated water supply until 2012, when council decided to stop as the bulk of submissions on the matter were against it.
On yesterday’s announcement, Central Hawke’s Bay district council mayor Peter Butler said: “We had the fortitude to make a decision, and I believe we made the right decision.
“I will not be happy if that decision is taken away from us,” he said.
Napier mayor Bill Dalton said from a council perspective he was pleased with the announcement.
“It’s another problem we don’t have to handle, now it’s the DHB’s problem.”
From a personal perspective he said he had always been extremely proud Napier had “pure arterial water system and the purest water system in the world” and was disappointed Napier’s water supply might be fluoridated.
“My view is we’re doing this for a tiny percentage of the population who don’t indulge in a proper diet and hygiene.
“We will do this and they will probably go on drinking Coca-Cola.”
Wairoa mayor Craig Little could not be reached for comment.
Free Fluoride Hastings member Angela Hair said the DHB had shown itself to have an “inherent bias in support of fluoride”.
“It seems to not be an impartial adjudicator in this case, and council had a more neutral role,” she said.
A bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year.