Marlborough will not be getting fluoridated drinking water any time soon, the mayor says.

Alistair Sowman said a report of top scientists supporting fluoridation gave clear direction on the contentious issue but a decision on the political hot potato should be up to central government, not district councils.

Sowman voted in favour of devolving the decision to central government at last month’s Local Government New Zealand meeting in Nelson.

Marlborough’s drinking water is currently not fluoridated.

Opinion is split in the region over the contentious issue. Anti-fluoride supporters fear for the health implications but supporters said it would protect the oral health of communities.

Sowman said the district council would be vulnerable to legal action if they made a decision on putting fluoride in Marlborough’s drinking water.

“Councils feared they could end up in court if disaffected parties took legal action. We doubted if we had the authority to make a call on water fluoridation, and if there was opposition to the decision we could have faced costly court cases. We didn’t want to end up in that position. We believe it is a central government issue.”

A review of scientific evidence by top scientists commissioned by the Prime Minister’s science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, and the Royal Society of New Zealand president, Sir David Skegg, said towns would be better off if they had fluoridated water.

The panel dispelled contentious claims about its links to cancer, bone fractures, reproduction and renal effects and lowering IQ.

They assured the science said it created no health risks and provided protection against tooth decay.

“The report gives clear direction on fluoridation but if the government wants fluoridation they need to make it mandatory and take the threat of legal challenge away from councils,” Sowman said. “We won’t be fluoridating our water any time soon.”