An attempt to shut down the fluoridation debate in Palmerston North has been thwarted at the council’s final meeting to amend its budget.
Councillor Annette Nixon told councillors yesterday they should remove $10,000 that was added to its annual plan for next year to pay for an independent assessment of the evidence for and against putting fluoride in the water. The council included the sum after receiving 31 submissions to the draft plan seeking a review.
But Cr Nixon said that since then, more information supporting fluoridation had been circulated.
For example, the prime minister’s chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, had issued a statement that fluoridation was safe and effective, and local authorities should continue the practice.
The science was settled, he said.
Cr Nixon said lack of fluoride created a burden of disease for individuals and a burden in the future, including the costs of health and dental care.
“When there are families whose children need breakfast at school, they also need to be given the protection that a fluoridated water supply provides.”
Cr Nixon said the council had been approached by a well-organised national lobby group and did not have a representative cross-section of local views.
Cr Bruce Wilson said he was also convinced by Sir Peter’s statement in favour of fluoridation.
He said submitters had presented some compelling information that had suggested further investigation was a good idea.
“But for me, the balance has shifted.”
Cr Duncan McCann said he did not believe local authorities had the skills to evaluate scientific knowledge on the subject.
And Cr Susan Baty said that since the hearings, twice as many people as there were submitters had approached her asking her to support continued fluoridation.
“But we should not be making the decision. It should be up to the Government.”
Other councillors said that with one-third of the submissions received on the draft plan addressing fluoridation, the council was bound to respond.
Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell said he had researched some references the Fluoride Action Network had provided that showed the improvement in dental health in developed countries in the past 50 years had happened independent of fluoridation.
He said the submitters’ information was credible. “They were not a bunch of nutters.”
The programme survived with an 11-5 vote for keeping the money in the budget.
The annual plan will be adopted by the full council on Wednesday.