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Fluoride Summary

From a personal point of view, I judge the pro-fluoride campaign run in this town to be the outright ‘Best Campaign’ of 2015.

Here is an extract from Pro-Campaign Convenor – Rob Plummer in his address to Council on 9 December – an address that was listened to by a somewhat chagrined Council, possibly reflecting on the wisdom of having mounted such an expensive, and emphatic Referendum:

“We are gratified by the common sense result. A convincing 57% % voter turnout with 73% of those voting in favour, is an overwhelming endorsement of Council’s existing policy. I’m also told that it was the strongest turnout for a stand-alone referendum on fluoridation in Australasia.”

The whole campaign was only made necessary because of the weakness displayed at every level of our Community Board and Council in simply failing to endorse the long-standing and highly successful use of fluoride in our Thames water supply.

The comparison with other non-fluoridated communities in the District relating to the incidence of dental caries in children alone should have been sufficient evidence for our Board and Council to have thrown out the mad psudo-science promulgated by the vocal anti-fluoride rump.

These people set about attempting to influence those in the community who are easily led by the nose in matters of this nature – think anti-vaccinators, tree huggers and many of the Grahamstown Mafia who emerge to oppose anything they perceive to contrary to their values.  Fortunately the Pro-fluoride campaigners were stirred into action early in the year having recognised the danger posed by the rapidly organising Antis, led by Jane Beck, and by our otherwise quite sensible Councillor Diane Connors.

This group for some reason made the crazy decision to buy into florescent signs of gigantic proportions in pushing their point of view. I think I realised, along with many others at the time the signage appeared around the town that they had made a gross error of judgement about the nature of their target audience. I heard immediate grumbling from a cross-section of people who objected strongly to this approach. Connors was able to access a large site on the Queen St which featured the advertising considered highly offensive by many.

Then they purchased full page HH advertisements weeks out from the closing date for the Referendum that featured extremely complicated pseudo-scientific gobbledegook that few would read, let alone be influenced by. This failed, along with the attempt to introduce overseas ‘experts’ and some renegade NZ dentists into the argument. Complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about the contents of the advertisements, and the Dental Association about their erstwhile members were successful in debunking both, and indeed in bringing about censure of those concerned.

This all happened late in the campaign by which time the efforts of the Antis were well and truly in tatters, despite their efforts to distance themselves from the truly egregious efforts of the infamous “Fluoride is Genocide” campaign mounted by well-known local activist Libby Boyd.

Having watched the antics of Libby and her cohort in Board and Council meetings, along with their multifarious props and offensive signage left me quite confident that the antis were heading to oblivion, but our elected officers still felt under sufficient pressure to follow through with their $26,000 Referendum. Councillor Connors displayed a cavalier attitude towards conflict of interest requirements throughout, and even Mayor Leach indicated at one stage that he was opposed to fluoride – not to much effect as it turned out!

Now we should examine just how the Pros managed their campaign – it is instructive and demonstrates how a common sense and evidence based campaign will win out over emotional clap-trap every time, if properly managed.

On this occasion, it was well known local identity Rob Plummer who led the campaign, ably supported by April Chan – wife of local dentist Andrew Chan. April brought professional public relations skills to the campaign that never faltered, and it met all its targets, on time!

The basis of the campaign was centred around the support of every dental and medical professional in the town who all lent their names to extremely well designed literature, posters and advertising. This was supported by considerable input from the Waikato Health Board, Thames Hospital, Health Department and other organisations with a direct interest in fluoride retention, including the Hauraki Primary Health Organisation and Te Korowai. The latter brought a Maori perspective absolutely critical to the success of the campaign. This cannot be over-emphasised, given the attempt by the Antis to paint fluoride as contrary to Maori values.

It was decided from the outset to make the Pro campaign local with informed decision-making, using positive language based on accurate information. How important was the input of prominent Thames dentist David Fornusek in this respect we will probably never know. It was David who was able to describe in graphic terms the difference in child dental statistics between treated Thames, and the non-treated areas of the District – David made no bones in this regard about the extractions under anaesthesia for which he had been responsible at Thames hospital.

Here is a further extract from Rob Plummer’s presentation:

“We live in a democracy that respects the rights of people to hold differing opinions and to be heard. People also have a right to challenge the status quo.

Elected officials have a duty to listen but they also have a duty to act in accordance with the best interests of their community; to keep a clear head when the challenge or opinion is based on ideology.

Councils must not be swayed by noise or rely on gut feelings. They must be guided by credible experts and evidence – and must uphold their own rules and processes.”

Rob also questioned the meaning of “binding referendum” and the ability of any council to bind a future council. “Done and dusted” were the words of the Mayor, but just to what degree remains the question. Rob also questioned why Council considered consultation beyond the Community Board was considered necessary on this occasion. All good sound questions that were certainly not answered by any credible response from Leach.

As for the future – the Antis are already planning to exert pressure on our Council into having non-fluoridated water points set up around town for those who claim to be harmed to be able to draw off ‘healthy’ water. These are likely to incur a $10,000 each capital cost, plus unknown annual costs. Interestingly, Leach appeared to be totally unaware of this initiative when it came up at the end of Jane's presentation - Hammond dissembled, but Leach was clearly displeased and let Hammond know in no uncertain terms that funding would not be provided. Jane will no doubt be working on Strat Peters, along with Connors to get Board support.

Hammond has form of course, having provided assistance to Jane in the past, and having presided over the removal of fluoride in Tauramanui. Hopefully, his successor will have more sense. Going on Leach's reaction, it may well have constituted another factor that led to his resignation. There has certainly been some 'stuff' going on that has not been revealed. 

Finally, Rob complimented Council staff on the extremely well run Referendum. Governance & Policy Manager Angela Jane displayed consummate skill in the manner by which she kept the competing sides at arms-length, and maintained the integrity of the process at all times.




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Reader Comments (1)

Bill a wonderful piece of writing and give a good summary of the facts
well done I hope ;we are over fl for a while

December 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

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