Lobby group to have say over fluoridation row

By Lawrence Gullery

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A district health board request to kick lobby group Fluoride Free Hawke's Bay out of next year's referendum debate on whether Hastings' urban water supply should be fluoridated has been rejected by Hastings District Council.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board wrote to the council disagreeing with a proposal to allow Fluoride Free Hawke's Bay the opportunity to submit 500 words on the referendum voting paper to be circulated to homes next year.

The referendum would be held at the same time as the council elections in October 2013. The DHB, an advocate for fluoridated water, would also be allowed to submit 500 words to the voting paper. The idea was to present a wide range of views for and against putting the chemical into the water supply.

The DHB's chief executive Kevin Snee, in his letter to the council, said he did not believe Fluoride Free Hawke's Bay should be treated "as an equivalent organisation" to the DHB.

"The HBDHB is the principal adviser to the council on issues of public health and has statutory responsibility to do so.

"A 500-word submission from both the HBDHB and Fluoride Free Hawke's Bay, in my view, is far too many. HBDHB is the key public health adviser to the council and as the council is responsible for preparing a statement, I believe it has a responsibility to work with HBDHB in the preparation of that material which would go to the public."

The letter was presented to the council at its meeting yesterday, where its chief executive Ross McLeod said staff did not agree with Mr Snee's view.

"We think it is very important to have counter views made. While the DHB is the principal adviser, they have a strong view on this matter and I don't think it would be a way of getting a balanced view."

The council's electoral officer, Peter Woodroffe, said the concept of allowing 500 words from each party was taken from a similar process used by Wanganui District Council.

He assured councillors there would be close scrutiny of the language used by the submitters to make sure there were no emotive words and articles were factual.

"It would then be discussed among staff and, as I did with the Nelson Park referendum, it would be sent outside the region for a peer review."

Councillors debated whether the referendum should be limited to those electors who had properties that received fluoridated urban water supply, or if it should be opened to everyone in the Hastings district.

"I think there are a lot of people that live in rural areas who travel into town for work, and I don't think it is as clearcut as only saying people who are in town on the water supply are affected," Councillor Bowers said.

But a majority voted to keep the referendum open to those who receive fluoridated water only and to allow Fluoride Free Hawke's Bay to submit 500 words.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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