If there’s one decision the Hastings Councillors clearly did NOT want to take responsibility for, it’s the decision to leave fluoride in Hastings drinking water … or to take it out.
Either they take it out and, according to many in the health establishment, contribute to a near epidemic of tooth decay and gum disease, especially amongst the poorest in our population. Or, they leave it in and, according to the anti-fluoride advocates, contribute other health complications that might be even more injurious … even life-threatening.
This is too momentous and weighty a matter for mere Councillors, given their job description and pay grade.
As was often stated in yesterday’s Council discussion of the fluoride issue (which was not nearly as passionate as their debate over whether olive and palm trees should be planted in the Hastings CBD), they desperately wanted someone else to take responsibility.
Their first choice — Plan A — would have been the Ministry of Health. And it’s hard to quarrel with that. Either, according to the best available science, as evaluated by the most relevant medical experts, fluoride belongs in our water, or it doesn’t. And the national government — supposedly holding that expertise — should have the courage of its convictions and make an informed judgment for all the people of New Zealand. But the Ministry of Health doesn’t want the responsibility either, so they’ve fobbed it off (with an official but toothless smile toward fluoridation) to hapless local authorities.
So the Hastings Councillors had no choice but to choose Plan B — let the people decide by referendum.
And that’s the treatment protocol the Hastings Council unanimously prescribed on Thursday.
Hastings will have a referendum posing the question — should fluoride be in or out — in conjunction with the 2013 local body elections.
So get ready to swallow a two year campaign dose on the issue!
P.S. Not all Hastings residents will necessarily participate in the choice. A key detail yet to be resolved is which electors get to vote — only those whose household water is directly hooked to the now-fluoridated municipal water supply, or possibly every Hastings elector, since currently we all must consume Hastings’ fluoridated water at some point — at school, at our workplace, at our favourite cafe, etc — even if not daily at home.