Chair of Auckland Council’s Policy and Strategy committee decided unilaterally yesterday that a petition from Fluoride Free New Zealand could be received but not debated on. This left councillors no option other than to vote to accept the petition or not.
The petition to Council was over the illegal fluoridation of some Franklin communities.
In 2014 Watercare changed the source of water to the Franklin communities of Buckland, Patumahoe, Clarks Beach, Waiau Beach and Glenbrook Beach to a fluoridated supply. These communities had never had fluoridation in the past. Council was made aware of this last week through a petition that was lodged with the Council.
Council should have been allowed to have a discussion on this and then decide what should be done. Instead, one councillor has dictated to the entire council. He decided the issue could not be considered even though it is hugely signifcant and puts Auckland Council in the position of endorsing the fluoridation of these communities without the required consultation and without even advising the residents of this important change to their water supply.
It is also concerning that only one councillor was provided with the legal advice that Watercare obtained and this advice was denied to other councillors. According to the councillor who received it, Watercare said that their only obligation was to provide potable water and adding fluoridation chemicals to the drinking water did not make the water less potable. If this argument can be used to start fluoridation without consultation then the same argument can be used to stop fluoridation as not adding fluoridation chemicals to drinking water, definitely does not make a water supply less potable. In fact this decision means not only can councils stop fluoridation without consultation, they don’t even have to notify anyone.
According to the 2002 Local Government Body Act, councils are legally required to consult communities on issues of significance. Since then all other councils have considered fluoridation to be an issue of significance and fluoridation has not been stopped or started without some form of consultation such as a referendum, Tribunal style process, or inclusion in the draft annual plan.
In 2010 when the Kapiti Coast Council nearly stopped fluoridation, the Ministry of Health threatened to instigate a judicial review as they did not believe they had been sufficiently consulted. This was despite the fact that Kapiti Coast Council had undertaken consultation via the draft annual plan process. It is highly likely that if any council in New Zealand chose to stop fluoridation without public consultation the Ministry of Health would legally challenge that decision.
Auckland Council is now ignoring the law, and astonishingly has allowed Watercare, an Auckland Council owned business contracted to the Council to provide water services, and not elected by the community, to ride roughshod over the Franklin residents.
Where is democracy at Auckland Council if councillors are not even allowed to discuss important petitions that are put before them?