The fluoridation backlash

The Waikato Times reports:

Hamilton residents overwhelmingly want their drinking water fluoridated – by a margin of more than two to one, a new Waikato Times poll shows.

The poll gives the most robust insight into public opinion on fluoride since a 2006 referendum had almost the exact same margin, and confirms Mayor Julie Hardaker and six city councillors are out of step with the public.

Conducted on Thursday night – one day after a special tribunal of eight council members voted 7-1 to remove fluoride from the city’s water – the Versus Research poll shows 59 per cent of those polled want their drinking water fluoridated, compared to 24 per cent against.

As I said, it is one thing for local residents to vote not to flouridate the common water supply, but for a Council to vote to remove it despite both a referendum in favour of keeping it, and continued public support is arrogant. If a Councillor got elected on a mandate of saying they will vote to remove fluoride, fair enough. But as far as I know, none did.

“The process gave people an opportunity to give their view if they felt that strongly about it. Based on that, we were reflecting the views of the people.”

No you were not. The views if those who feel strongly are not the views of the people.

Senior councillor Dave Macpherson said he stood by his vote even if it cost him his seat.

“If people saw and heard the same stuff as we did over four days at the tribunal, they might not be so pro-fluoridation,” said Mr Macpherson.

How much of what they heard was peer reviewed science, and how much was opinion?

Meanwhile Wellington is the next key battle for anti-fluoridation advocates after their controversial Hamilton victory. Anti-fluoride campaigner Mark Atkin has told the Dominion Post that Wellington might not be the next city to go fluoride-free, but it was a critical target.

This could be an interesting issue for Celia Wade-Brown. The Greens have long campaigned against fluoride and just six weeks ago adopted a specific policy supporting opt-out campaigns for local authorities – healthpolicyratified23.4.13. Their new policy is not on their website yet, but a source leaked it to me.

A Hamilton councillor and district health board member has fired back at a broadside from senior minister Judith Collins labelling him “gutless”.

While most criticism has been levelled at the seven elected members who voted to remove fluoride from Hamilton’s drinking water, those who refused to take part have also come under fire.

Justice Minister Judith Collins told the Waikato Times three district health board members who are on the city council were not elected to sit on the fence, but to make reasonable and sensible decisions. She has described the decision to dump fluoride as “absolutely gutless”.

Councillors Martin Gallagher, Ewan Wilson and Pippa Mahood removed themselves after declaring a conflict with their district health board roles.

But a frustrated Mr Wilson said he had voted for fluoridation as a district health board member and had received clear legal advice he should not take part in the city council fluoride tribunal.

I’d love to see that legal advice, because on the face of it, it sounds ridiculous. I have extensive first hand knowledge of dealing with conflicts of interests, and which ones rise to the level where you should not vote because of one. Being a board member of a DHB that advocates for fluoride in no way is a conflict with making a decision on the Council drinking supply.

Former MP and city councillor Martin Gallagher, who also removed himself after legal advice, said he had no choice.

“In normal circumstances I’d agree, but I’d assume a minister of justice would expect that when elected members get legal advice from the city solicitor that they have an actual conflict and should withdraw, they do.”

Very few conflicts require a non-vote. This is a great misnomer.  Most conflicts just require a disclosure – unless you stand to make personal gain.

UPDATE: Green Health spokesperson Kevin Hague has commented below. He is personally in favour of fluoridation, which is great. The overall stance of the party is unclear.

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