A potential water fluoridation mandate could leave the Gore District Council $500,000 out of pocket.
In a letter to the council, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield advised of his intentions to have councils fluoridate all water supplies that service more than 500 people.
Fluoridation infrastructure would need to be incorporated into the construction of the new East Gore water treatment plant and the upgrade of the Mataura water treatment plant, Three Waters asset manager Matt Bayliss said in a report at a full council meeting yesterday.
The new East Gore plant had not been designed for fluoridation, but “upgrades are anticipated to be relatively straightforward with an estimated cost of $125,000.”
The Mataura plant, on the other hand, would require an additional building to be constructed at an estimated cost of $350,000.
“To support early adoption, the Ministry [of Health] has a limited amount of capital works funding available for local authorities that are willing and able to begin the capital works to fluoridate by the end of 2022,” Mr Bayliss said.
Cr Cliff Bolger said fluoridation had benefits but it should be a choice.
“Surely if central government want fluoridation as part of their Three Waters directive, they should include it, rather than passing this hot potato to us.”
Cr Neville Phillips agreed and said it was unfair on the ratepayer.
Mayor Tracey Hicks was supportive of the idea.
“I do know that if you compare the communities up and down the country that are fluoridated and the ones that aren’t, the condition of the oral health is stark.”
Cr Bronwyn Reid agreed it had health benefits and said anyone who did not want fluoride in their water could filter it out.
Health was also a concern for Cr Doug Grant who thought the fluoride may corrode some older pipes.
This could lead to health issues and greater maintenance costs, he said.
Cr Richard McPhail wanted to see oral health statistics for the area.
“If we do have such a poor oral health record in the area, it would pay to probably show that.”
Chief executive Stephen Parry said it was too soon to act given there was no official directive.
Councillors agreed to wait until a government directive before taking action and also gather data on oral health in the area.
*Original article online at https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/southland/fluoridation-order-could-cost-500k