A $10,000 report commissioned to inform Palmerston North city councillors about whether to lift the lid on fluoridation has been dismissed as a waste of money.
Fluoridation opponent and newly-elected Horizons regional councillor Rachel Keedwell said the money should have been spent on an independent review of studies on the pros and cons of continuing to fluoridate the city’s water.
But the report going to the city council’s planning and policy committee next week instead presents the findings of selected published reviews and options for a decision-making process.
“I’m not surprised with the result, as it was written by a former water fluoridation engineer well indoctrinated on the benefits.
“It is as independent as if they had asked me to do it. They have thrown their money away,” she said.
Water and waste services manager Rob Green said the report laid out several choices for councillors.
They could opt to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply, consult the public in one of several ways, or wait until a court ruling on whether it breaches the Human Rights Act to medicate citizens without their informed consent.
The council commissioned the report after receiving 35 Annual Plan submissions on fluoridation last year.
The majority opposed fluoridation, and sought a review of the practice.
The Fluoride Action Network had several arguments for its removal, claiming it was not an effective way of reducing tooth decay, was not safe, and that it was wrong to force mass medication on communities.
The council has been fluoridating the main water supply from Turitea since 1962. Ashhurst’s supply is also fluoridated.
It costs about $45,000 a year.
Mr Green said the report being presented to the committee on Monday by water supply engineer Andrew Watson of Beca Consultants did not recommend whether fluoridation should continue or cease.
Instead, it aimed to give councillors an overview of literature and position statements for and against the practice, and an outline of what other councils had done.
It also presented options for a way forward.
If the council agreed to consider the issue, it could consult through Annual Plan submissions, a telephone survey, a tribunal hearing, or a referendum which could be binding or not binding.
Referenda were held last year in Whakatane, Hastings and Hamilton, all returning a majority preference for fluoridation, even though Hamilton councillors had already decided to remove it after a tribunal hearing.
The third option was to wait and see.
Fluoridation opponents have asked the High Court to rule that the South Taranaki District Council’s decision to fluoridate Patea’s supply is an unlawful case of mass medication.
The outcome, expected soon, could affect all local authorities where fluoride is added to the water.