Hamilton gets its fluoridation referendum

referendum2It was a close thing, (passed by 7 votes to 6) but today the Hamilton City Council decided to hold a referendum on fluoridation of its public water supply at the October elections (see Hamilton to go to referendum on fluoride).

This represents a backdown from their decision last month to stop fluoridation – – despite a previous referendum and all their polling showing citizens support for the treatment.

In my mind this local experience raised a number of questions.

1: The questionable validity of the hearings process held by the Hamilton City Council. This was swamped by anti-fluoridation activists with only a few speakers (mainly institutional) supporting fluoridation. (There are no activist pro-science groups, unfortunately). This appeared to sway councillors who were exposed to a lot of “sciency” sounding misinformation, often extensively but falsely referenced. Councillors also appeared to be taken in by quantity and not quality, and seeing it as an issue on which scientists didn’t agree. They were fooled into the false “balance” argument – placing the activists “experts” on the same, or often higher, level of credibility as the experts in the District Health Board and Ministry of Health,

2: Council just don’t have the skills for this job. In effect, councillors were put in a position of having to make scientific judgements for which they are just not trained. The Mayor more or less admitted this when she said councils should not be put in this position and the decisions should be made by central government.

While such hearings have often been preferred to referenda I think this example shows how easily they can be captured. At least a referendum represents the will of the people, even if that can be influenced by chemophobia and activist propaganda. At least most people do put value on expert opinion.

3: The foolishness of council ignoring public opinion. I find incredible that the council could have made that June decision  knowing that their polling showed it would not be popular. Did they really think they had raised themselves to expert status and therefore could over-ride that public opinion as well as expert advice?

4: The anti-science sympathies within the council. I communicated with all the councillors asking them to support a referendum and was shocked at the response of a minority (3). This was rude (extreme in one case), accused me of being involved in some sort of internal political infighting, and discounted any reply I made to their claims on the science of fluoridaiton. In effect these 3 councillors seemed to think that the “science” stories they got from the activists groups was of higher value than any comment made by a scientist. Not just me but also other people expressing concern and those on the District Health Board and Ministry of Health teams.

For example a warning about misinformation in the activists’ submissions brought accusations of being “condescending, and even a bit offensive” and scientists comments were described as “designed to put down those involved, and are unscientific themselves.” No explanation of  what they based the claim on given. Yet the anti-fluoridationsts have been making quite irresponsible claims about the science and scientists, as well as our health institutions, without a single complaint.

And let’s face it, concerns expressed in the letters to the councillors really only echoed those of the Minister of Health.

But I have learned something

This experience brought home to me that anti-science attitudes are relatively widespread, even extending into representative bodies like councils. This is a bit of a shock as Hamilton has a long history of scientific research institutes and the University of Waikato in or near the city. In recent years science based industries and innovation centres have also proliferated. I had thought this scientific presence had actually promoted good attitudes towards science in the local community.

I must say, I was also surprised at such a rude response from a few councillors just months before the local body elections. I would have thought they would not be silly enough to offend voters in such a silly way.

Oh well, the Council has given us a referendum and I also found the experience useful in another way. I now have some good information which will help me in my voting decisions next October.

See also:

debunking anti-fluoridation arguments
Fluoridation – topical confusion
Fluoridation and conspiracy theories
Fluoridation – the violation of rights argument.
Poisoning the well with a caricature of science

Getting a grip on the science behind claims about fluoridation
Is fluoride an essential dietary mineral?
Fluoridation – are we dumping toxic metals into our water supplies?
Tactics and common arguments of the anti-fluoridationists

13 responses to “Hamilton gets its fluoridation referendum

  1. And, of course, Ken, calling those who disagrees with you a nutter is straight from the “How to Win friends and Influence People” manual. LOL


  2. Has someone been calling you a “nutter” – Ron? Perhaps you should have a think about that.

    It’s not a term I use – but one of the antifluoridation people who has been stalking me by private email descibes himself as belonging to, or representing, “The Hamilotn Nutters Club.”


  3. I recall Councillor Ewen Wilson referring to opponents of fluoridation as nutters…


  4. SO, Ron? Why do you feel the need to share this here?

    Perhaps you should also have a go at your mate Trevor Crosbie who claims to belong to the Hamilton Nutter’s Club? Perhaps it actually exists?

    But it is of no relevance here.


    Censorship Ken? LOL


  6. Trevor Nutter

    Of course the Hamilton Nutters Club exists, otherwise you wouldn’t have mentioned it Ken. Who are members and what they are is another matter all together and really is irrelevant to the subject of added fluoride.
    I object to your referencing me as an email stalker when all I was doing was responding to an email you had posted in an open forum.
    The close decision to have a further discussion on a referendum raises an interesting question of democracy in that we had a Tribunal process, voted for by Mr Wilson, which invited submissions from all Hamilton residents either pro or anti. Those who chose to participate did so, the submissions were considered and a decision based on the material presented was made. That Ken can be nothing other than democracy in action.
    Then along came WDHB member Ewan Wilson who fronted a DHB/NFIS/MoH campaign to overturn the Council decision. That is a conflict of policy – the WDHB is committed to fluoridate our drinking water while the HCC is committed to follow a policy mandated by its citizens.
    The Tribunal was decided on through a vote by our elected representatives so there can be no argument that it was undemocratic.
    What is happening now through a petition for a referendum on the other hand is a travesty of democratic process because it will unfairly favour the pro lobby due to the advantage of resources they will enjoy.
    The same as happened in the previous referendum with the smiley face campaign. Hardly a fair and balanced campaign and won by the battalions with the most money. They bought a decision they didn’t win it on merit.


  7. Trevor, I classified both you an Ron as stalking because you had both been sending me material to my private email despite requests not to. Hopefully you have now taken on board my request to make your comments here.

    Dave McPherson’s email list is a separate subject. I notice you ran away for that one too.

    It is cynical for you to be critical of a referendum as unfairly favouring those who support fluoridation – it’s what democracy is all about.

    And yet you are cynically ecstatic about the hearing’s process the council employers. Despite it being swamped by organised submissions, many from overseas. And despite the council itself admitting that they just didn’t have the skills to make judgments on the science. The stupidity is that instead of relying on the experts they went ahead, gave more access to those misinforming us and made a decision which went counter to the views of citizens.

    They effectively made Hamilton the butt of humour and derision. News editors and ministers of the crown were scathing in their criticism.

    By a very slim majority the council voted to do the only thing to correct their mistake. Hand the decision over to Hamiltonians.


  8. Oh, Ken, Ken, Ken… you can’t face science when it’s staring you in the face… why have you been censoring data from the MOH? For one who claims to be science-based, why do you run and hide it when it shows your position is wrong?



  9. Ron, you have been told many times that I have set up a spam filter to pull out your nuisance comments such as the one you refer to. We have thoroughly discssed your cherry picking of small sets of data. On thie specific question the MoH specifically said that the small numbers make the conclusions you draw statistically non-significant.

    You have also been told many times that if you want to pursue the issue set up your own bog, display the evidence and your analysis and conclusions and sit back to await comments.

    I am not prepared to allow you to purposely dmage this blog by continuous and repeated nuisance comments. (and pelase stop stalking me with personal emails).

    Move on to a different subject and take your diversions elsewhere.


  10. So, just to make sure I get the science correct.

    The Council is told that fluoride makes “dramatic” differences to children’s teeth, but when the science shows that children in non-fluoridated areas have better teeth it’s because the “the MoH specifically said that the small numbers make the conclusions you draw statistrically non-0sgoinficant.”

    Ken, as the guardian of all things science, can you please provide the link to where the MOH have undertaken such statistical analyses and drawn such conclusions????


  11. Ron, do you not understand the meaning of statistical significance and the danger of cherry-picking small groups to draw conclusions.

    See the video from the Hamilton hearings where the DHB/MoH team respond to questions for the background to that specific one.

    This is a pseudoscience claim being promoted by FANZZ as part of their misinformnation campaign. You are just following orders, Ron.

    Want to make more of it – set up your own blog and thrash it out to your heart’s content.


  12. Ken,
    I agree with you, these antiflouridationists like Ron L and (well named Trev) Trevor Nutter are ignorant nutters. They think that artificially increasing a towns water supply of say about 0.02 ppm. to about 0.8 ppm.is going to cause Alzhiemers, osteoporosis, all manner of disease..you name it. But when the initial studies were done discovering the dental benefits of F’ in the water, they were done in cities where F’ existed naturally in hundreds of ppm, and theonly ill effects was a mottling of the teeth.
    I’ts much like the nutters who believe that increasing atmospheric CO2 from say 250ppm to 400ppm. is going to cause global warming !!!

    Totally bonkers.

    ppm .


  13. Yes, Mack, your satire is a bit clumsy to say the least. Should at least try to get the facts right.


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