Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult.Photo: ODT files
Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall has already announced the Bill will be amended to give Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield oversight for all decisions on fluoridating water supplies to ensure a nationally consistent approach to the controversial issue.
‘‘Local councils are responsible for the capital and operational costs of fluoridation,’’ Dr Verrall said.
‘‘There will be funding available to support local councils with fluoridation-related infrastructure work.’’
The SDHB’s community and public health advisory committee discussed the issue last week and explored ways to bring regional areas into the fluoridation fold.
Invercargill’s water is 100% fluoridated and Dunedin comes close at 96%, but Clutha, with 58.7% fluoridation, is the only other significant community in the South to have its water treated.
There are numerous small water supplies catering for fewer than 500 people spread across Otago and Southland, which the SDHB was told would make universal fluoridation challenging.
However, board members and staff backed extending fluoridation as far and wide as possible.
‘‘It is a very effective public health measure, which is simple and should be available to as many people as possible,’’ medical officer of health Susan Jack said.
Board member Lyndell Kelly said the issue needed to remain on the board’s agenda and that greater effort should go into promoting fluoridation in small communities.
SDHB chairman Pete Hodgson said he had seen the effects a lack of fluoridation had had on dental health, and especially on children’s dental health, and the board needed to get on with expanding fluoridation.
Committee chairman Tuari Potiki said fluoridation was an important equity issue, both for Maori and Pakeha and for rural and urban populations.
‘‘I think there is a strong appetite to do more … Waiting for the law to change will take too long and in the meantime we need a plan for what we could do quickly.’’
Eight Otago and Southland territorial authorities combined to make a submission earlier this year on the Government’s Water Services Bill, and expressed concern about additional regulatory requirements and costs facing councils from water reforms.
Southland Mayor Gary Tong has previously expressed concern at the expense fluoridation could impose on local councils.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher has said it is a health question and an issue for the SDHB.