A health board member has broken ranks to accuse his colleagues of pushing through what he calls a “rubber-stamp” statement supporting water fluoridation.
Andrew Buckley unsuccessfully opposed the re-adoption of the Waikato District Health Board’s position statement on fluoridation, dubbing it “flawed decision-making”, but chairman Bob Simcock said the board was simply following the science and Buckley was a lone voice.
Local councils, not the health board, decide whether or not to put fluoride in the water. But many, including Hamilton City Council, have been the subject of campaigns to remove it and have looked to the DHB for a stance on it when making their decision.
The government has signalled a move to give the decision to DHBs and Waikato’s current policy is based on Ministry of Health guidelines.
Buckley claimed the policy was presented at a recent board meeting without any supporting evidence.
“I was elected to the board [for the first time] in 2010 and the first challenge I faced was when I asked for discussions around [fluoridation],” Buckley said.
“But I was told that it had already been discussed before and that was that. We were told we were not there to discuss it, we were there to endorse it.
“I believe that attitudes and statements like this are a serious threat to our democracy and move us closer to a place where faceless bureaucrats make major decisions without taking into account the voice of the community.”
Simcock said the policy was not pushed through and the board clearly took a position reflecting the consensus of health science.
“The reality is that there was some debate. The board members were very clear about re-supporting that position.
“I’m not sure if rubber-stamping meant that people don’t agree with him (Buckley), well, if it does then that’s the case.
“They were obviously of the view that that is the policy statement of the board and they’re comfortable with it. If they weren’t they would not have voted for it.”
“People of Hamilton have also expressed a similar view,” said Simock in reference to the 2014 city referendum where 70 per cent of respondents backed fluoridation.
The Waikato DHB resolved to “support fluoride, at accepted safe levels being introduced into non-fluoridated reticulate drinking water supplies to increase access to fluoridated water. Fluoride should be maintained in already fluoridated supplies.”
DHB’s director of public and organisational affairs, Lydia Aydon, said a renewed position statement was needed as it had expired and it gave the public health team the ability to advocate on the issue in the name of the DHB.
In April, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said putting water fluoridation decisions in the hands of district health boards, rather than local councils, should lead to more water supplies being fluoridated.
And in the same month, Hamilton City Council agreed to provide fluoride-free water at the Taitua Arboretum and the Claudelands Events Centre. The tap at the events centre cost $70,000.
The most comprehensive survey of research on fluoridation yet done was released in Australia this month and found it was safe.
The report from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council found fluoridation reduced tooth decay by 26-44 per cent in people in areas where it was conducted, with the only side effect minor tooth discolouration in some.