Southland’s cows could have the shiniest teeth in the country if the district’s water supply is fluoridated, a councillor has suggested.
Cr Rob Scott spoke out about the issue of fluoridation at a committee meeting on Thursday.
“We are going to have the shiniest teeth on cows in the country because so much of our water doesn’t reach human consumption,” he said.
“I really do wonder about, especially for our schemes, the cost benefit [of fluoridating the region’s water supplies].”
The Southland District has no fluoridated drinking water supplies. But the Ministry of Health has signalled that drinking water supplies serving more than 500 people will eventually be required to include fluoridation.
Southland District Council staff are looking into the cost implications, with early indications suggesting each of its eight schemes of more than 500 people could cost at least $100,000 to fluoridate.
Scott said he wanted to ensure the community’s views were heard on the issue, so the Ministry of Health was aware that fluoridation may not be “fit for purpose” or accepted in the community.
He found the ministry’s timing of the issue bizarre and frustrating “after everything that’s been thrown at local Government”.
“Now it looks like we will have to potentially pay for a decision we can’t have too much say on.”
Cr Karyn Owen said the decision on fluoridation was largely out of the council’s control.
But given a referendum in 2007 had seen the Southland District reject fluoridation, a lot of people would be interested in collecting rain water to drink so they could look after themselves, she said.
Given this, she wanted the council to inform the public on how they could make those changes.
However, a staff member said expectations should be tempered on what was possible around alternative drinking water supplies in the current regulatory framework.
Cr Don Byars said the council was being asked to do something its community didn’t want, and it highlighted the issue of councils losing control of their three water infrastructure to the Government.
Cr Paul Duffy said it was important the public were informed of the real story, which was that young children’s teeth decay was horrendous in various parts of the country.
There was a responsibility to support programmes that benefited people, he said.
Council staff said local Government would not be required to establish fluoridation in drinking water supplies ahead of the Three Waters reform.
Deputy Mayor Ebel Kremer said: “Whatever the extra cost there is in implementing this we [should] certainly tap on central Government’s door saying … we need some funding for it.”