A Report from New Zealand
By Mary Byrne, National CoordinatorTwo weeks ago legislation was introduced into the NZ Parliament in an attempt to force fluoridation on the whole country. Currently, only half of New Zealand’s population is on fluoridated water. The decision-making for fluoridation had been held by local councils since it was introduced starting in the 1960s.
& Media Spokeperson for Fluoride Free New Zealand
& Media Spokeperson for Fluoride Free New Zealand
The proposed new legislation has only had its first reading at Parliament and must go through two more readings before it becomes law. The next step is for this drafted legislation to go before the Health Select Committee and this is where citizens can help make changes. Legislation is often amended once the Committee involved has heard feedback from a wide range of people. So it is possible that a strategic amendment might nullify the proposed legislation.
The legislation attempts to shift responsibility from the local councils to the District Health Boards (DHBs), but the DHBs are a branch of the Ministry of Health in the Central Government, and are contractually obligated to do what the Ministry instructs. The DHBs will only have a limited window with which to view the issue: they will only be allowed to consider dental health and weigh that up against the costs of fluoridation. Their purview will not include considering:
- health effects,
- current fluoride exposure,
- alternatives to fluoridation, like the Childsmile program in Scotland, and
- will not include consultation with the community.
The two studies published prior to this survey (that did look at life time residence), and a study published this year as well as the New Zealand School Dental statistics (published every year) did not find any difference in decay rates. The only differences that can be found in the School Dental statistics is for Maori children. This fact distorts the picture because the non-fluoridated total includes the poorest area, with a high population of Maori children, while the fluoridated total includes the wealthiest area. The sad irony in all this is that Maori children had perfect teeth before the advent of western diets.
The Health Select Committee is inviting feedback from the public until the 2nd of February and will allow people to also speak in person and by Skype to the Committee. The Hearing is likely to be February or March next year. This Committee is made up of representatives from the top four political parties with the National Party (the current Government) making up the majority.
The aim of Fluoride Free NZ (FFNZ) is to educate the Health Select Committee members in the hope that they will agree to amendments to the legislation. We also aim to educate other Members of Parliament who are not on the Select Committee, so that they are supportive of their members on the Select Committee making changes to the legislation.
Only 23 of the 67 NZ local councils still have any fluoridation, because FFNZ has managed to convince several councils to stop over the past decade.
We also plan to put out as much publicity as our budget allows especially on health effects and the potential for fluoride to damage to the brain - so the general public become more informed and advise political parties and individual MPs that they won’t get their vote unless they change their stance.
As you will see from the Transcript and the video footage of the MPs that spoke at the first Parliamentary Reading of the Bill - none of the MPs that spoke know very much about the subject. Health Select Committee Chair Simon O’Connor mistakenly credits his good teeth on taking fluoride tablets as a child. Unbeknownst to him, the NZ Ministry of Health no longer recommends fluoride tablets because we now know fluoride doesn't work by swallowing and fluoride tablets cause dental fluorosis!
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, who introduced the Bill, but fortunately is not on the Health Select Committee, has called opponents of fluoridation “tin-foil hat wearing, UFO-abducted pseudo-scientists.” He mustn’t realise that he is insulting around half of the NZ population. Results from all referenda held in NZ show that people tend to vote status quo. If a nationwide referendum was held tomorrow, we would have a good chance of winning.
This really is crunch time for us in New Zealand. If we do not get changes to this draconian legislation, it will be nigh on impossible to get it stopped where it has started and very, very difficult to resist its introduction to areas that don’t have it, even if the vast majority of the community, including local councillors, don’t want it. On the other hand, if we do get changes we could see an end to fluoridation completely in NZ and the fluoridated world would get even smaller.
As many of your supporters know, when Prof Paul Connett was over here in New Zealand earlier in the year, we were able to persuade a TV station in Auckland to host a 30-minute debate with a well-known NZ scientist, Prof Mike Berridge. We were excited about this because Paul had been trying to get such a debate in NZ with someone who was pro-fluoridation for 12 years. I think we can safely assume that our side won that debate because the proponents don’t promote or mention this debate and anyone who watched it can see that Paul won this debate. That is why during our campaign we are paying for this debate to be aired again on NZ television – 8 times on FACE SKY Channel 083.
You can also view the debate online anytime.