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!

Tom Belford

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.

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  1. It’s sad for the people of Hastings District that their elected representatives don’t have the courage to do the job they are generously paid for doing: making informed decisions on behalf of the people of Hasting.

    Whatever one thinks of fluoridated water – and in my personal opinion is it has been proven over the last 50 years to be safe and effective in New Zealand – the decision required from Hastings councillors was no more difficult than the many others they have made on other important public health issues.

    To take just one of these, sewerage reticulation and discharge to sea, the public health consequences of getting this essential system working safely and effectively, or not, far outweigh the known impacts of fluoridation.

    The councillors get the best advice money can buy, they read detailed reports prepared by their staff, and they are well paid. What is wrong with them, that they won’t deliver on their promises, made only last year, to do the job?

    And where is the fabled leadership from Mayor Lawrence Yule and Deputy-Mayor Cynthia Bowers, who are so convinced of their leadership skills, they want to take over Napier City and the Hawke’s Bay Region as well?

    This latest non-decision provides yet another reason, as if we needed it, for the people of Napier to reject Mr Yule’s “Greater Hastings” pipe-dream and stick with their own council, whose strengths and weaknesses reflect the views of the Napier voters.

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