The Southland and Otago district health boards are calling on the public to decide whether fluoride should be added to Southland district’s drinking water to improve oral health.
Otago District Health Board chief executive Brian Rousseau said the health boards were aiming to have a referendum as part of Southland District Council local body elections in October.
It was an opportune time to seek community views on the issue as the Ministry of Health sought applications for funding of fluoridation equipment for reticulated community water supplies, Mr Rousseau said.
The district council last consulted members of the public about fluoridation for the Southland district in 2004, which councillors opposed.
However Public Health South oral health promoter Mark Miller told a district council meeting yesterday that to put the issue to council vote again was effectively denying the community a chance to have its say.
A referendum would take the political aspect out of the issue for councillors and let the communities involved take responsibility for their health, Mr Miller said.
Figures from the Ministry of Health show Invercargill city, Bluff, Tisbury School and Balclutha all have fluoride in their water supplies. Mr Rousseau said the health boards had approached the district council as part of a government vision to promote oral health through fluoridation, a healthy diet and publicly funded services.
Because the issue fell under the Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme, ratepayers would bear little or none of the costs for equipment, he said.