Hayden Donnell and Mark Hanna dive deep in the mysterious depths of local democracy to weed out the potential wackos.
They’re mostly normal on the front pages of the ballots.
Phil Goff. Vic Crone. These people.
All sober and level-headed.
If these top candidates say something strange, people call them out. Look at Vic Crone. She didn’t want to be drawn into the climate change “debate”. By the next day, she was pleading for mercy on Paul Henry.
Mystery awaits as you descend further into the foaming vat of local democracy. Things start getting weird in the council wards. There are former league coaches. People who believe the Unitary Plan caused the housing crisis. David Rankin. It’s best to use The Spinoff’s Endorsify tool to avoid them. The local boards are even murkier, with climate change deniers and cranks lurking on every page. It’s best to use Generation Zero’s election scorecards to light your way.
But at the furthest reaches of the voting ballot lie the District Health Boards. It is truly a haunted forest; a gloomy and unmappable land. No-one knows any of the candidates. The candidates barely know themselves. The media would rather douse themselves in the bubonic plague than cover the contests. Even that great tsar of local government, Guy Williams, gets confused.
The vacuum of information makes it difficult for even the smartest voter to make good choices.
This kind of decision-making is how you end up with your hospitals being run by tinfoil tophat-wearing weirdos who believe bathing in dog hair will cure psoriasis, or anti-science quacks who read a few articles on vaccinesarebad.com and act like they have 14 PHDs in immunology. Without information, quackery is allowed to flourish like bacteria in a sweaty shoe.
That’s why, inspired by the excellent tweets of Mark Hanna, I put together this list. We tried to track down the DHB candidates across New Zealand who hold the most vehemently anti-science views. Most of the people we name are against adding fluoride to water – a safe, effective way to prevent tooth decay that is supported by organisations including the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation, the New Zealand Dental Association and many more.
If you don’t want to read through our list, Fluoride Free NZ has helpfully provided a list of anti-fluoride candidates across the country, which can double as a guide to who not to vote for.
Other candidates we name are even more deeply embedded in medical make-believe – homeopaths and alternative medicine practitioners. Others just threw up a few red flags in their blurbs, using words like “chiro”, “homeo”, “alternative”, “complementary” and “natural”.
To be clear, it’s not terrible to believe in natural medicine or alternative therapies – but if you do believe in that stuff, you probably shouldn’t be sitting on a health board making decisions about the future of modern medicine. Our aim is to inform you, the voter, so you can help stop a few anti-science candidates infiltrating DHBs, like salmonella sneaking into a stomach on a slab of aging pork.
Mary-Anne Benson-Cooper is a company director of Edmarhealth, which promotes Waitemata DHB candidate Edward Benson-Cooper’s chiropractic clinic.
Bay of Plenty DHB
Hylton Rhodes seems exceptionally opposed to fluoride. He starts his profile with “I am strongly opposed to possible future fluoridation of the Tauranga City Council water supply” and ends it with “Keep fluoride out of the city water.”
Richard E Roe
NOTE: Christchurch is the only place in the country that currently has nothing added to its water. Anti-fluoride candidates here may be taking that stance for more legitimate reasons, such as the potential cost of the change.
Richard E Roe is a practicing chiropractor who loves something called “functional medicine” and doesn’t much care for our “pharmaceutical-driven medical system”. Alert! Alert! Beware.
Meanwhile, Don Church is more passionately anti-fluoride than most of his fellow candidates, so maybe don’t vote for him.
Capital and Coast DHB
Dr Stan Litras
Stan Litras is more vehement than your average anti-fluoride campaigner. His opposition to fluoride may actually be the main reason he’s standing for the DHB.
Sue Kedgley was an effective Green MP, but has regularly expressed quack-ish views – raising fears over vaccines and GE, trying to get homeopathy integrated into the health system, and calling smart meters a “threat to health”. She also says she “doesn’t know” whether fluoride is a good thing. Probably not someone you want running your DHB.
Helene Ritchie was originally listed as anti-fluoride based on info from the Public Health Association of New Zealand. However she told Fluoride Free NZ she “doesn’t know” whether fluoride should be added to water, and would make her decision based on evidence.
Kath Adams seems to have told pro-fluoride campaigners she’s for fluoride and anti-fluoride campaigners she’s against it.
— Jude Ball (@JudeBall7) September 29, 2016
UPDATE: Adams initially supported fluoridation, then changed her mind after being given some materials by Fluoride Free NZ.
Hawke’s Bay DHB
Lynlee Aitcheson-Johnson believes people are experiencing “unexpected side-effects” from the fluoridation of Hastings’ drinking water.
Hutt Valley DHB
Lakes District DHB
NOTE: If you want a good guide on who to vote for in Rotorua, go here.
Christine Rankin used to be chief executive of the Conservative Party.
Nelson Marlborough DHB
Judy Crowe recently got in a spat with the Nelson Marlborough DHB chair Jenny Black, claiming she’d been bullied over her opposition to fluoride.
Tricia Cheel is very anti-fluoride, but she’s also so much more. Cheel is a homeopath who’s been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority for making misleading therapeutic claims. She’s against just about everything that science has ever touched, from 1080 to genetic engineering. In a statement to Fluoride Free NZ, she claims drinking fluoride-infused tap water has made her sick for decades. “I suffered the toxic effects from fluoride for 35 years, all the while wondering what was wrong with me until I suddenly stopped drinking Auckland’s tap water altogether in October 2012 which resulted in a tremendous improvement in my health and well being,” the statement says.
As an aside, Cheel is part of the STOP ticket. All the STOP candidates are handily listed here. If there are any in your ward, don’t hesitate to not vote for them.
South Canterbury DHB
Rachel Tomkinson claims she healed her daughter’s allergies “simply by heeding to common sense foods that have not been adulterated for the sake of profit and greed”. Her Better Bods business offers extremely questionable treatments, including something called a “faith detox”. Its homepage features the amazingly bad quote: “I have learnt once you know the truth, our modern diseases become a choice.” Probs not someone you want running your health service.
There’s no election here this year, as the board is being run by a commissioner. But we had to post this amazing response to Fluoride Free NZ from Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt.
Here’s Marijke Warmenhoven’s statement to Fluoride Free NZ in all its glory:
“When I was at University I read articles about the use of fluoride by the Germans during WWII to weaken the minds of the people? When I thought about it if fluoride was added to water for health and dental benefits, why wouldn’t all the other required vitamins and minerals be added also, such as calcium or magnesium? If, we really care about dental health in NZ we would limit the production of sugar laden and low nutritional food products available on the market. I am sure there will be real cost savings when they stop fluoridating the water!”
Brien John Bennett
Andrew Buckley has waged a lonely fight against fluoride during his time on the Waikato DHB.
He may be joined in his battle by Macushla Rielly-Obiakor: a STOP candidate who vehemently opposes fluoride, and seems to be against science in general. Her background is in “natural health therapies”, which is often used as a euphemism for medicine that doesn’t actually work.
Martin Gallagher was previously on the anti-fluoride list. He got in touch to say he’s not anti-fluoride, and will follow Board policy, which is based on peer-reviewed medical evidence. However Fluoride Free NZ has twice noted that he’s told them he’s opposed to fluoride.
Besides opposing fluoride, Stephen Butcher used an animated GIF of someone shooting themself in the head while explaining his suicide policy. He also believes water chlorination causes cancer.
Allison Roe is a strange case. Her profile calls for DHBs to adopt “complementary therapies”, which are usually only called “complementary” because they don’t work. She’s anti-fluoride, but also seems to be for things like High Dose Intravenous Vitamin C, and is aligned with quackish organisation Health Freedom New Zealand.
Edward Benson-Cooper is a chiropractor. His website claims chiropractic – which is the subject of many claims of quackery – can treat babies for colic, which seems kinda sorta maybe not true.
West Coast DHB
Jim Hilton is a STOP candidate. Don’t vote for STOP candidates.
Jim Hilton, standing for West Coast DHB, is adamantly anti-fluoride and honestly seems anti-science. Running on an anti-“toxins” platform
— Mark Hanna (@HonestUniverse) September 25, 2016
We didn’t find anyone! Go Whanganui!
Philippa Baker-Hogan mentions in her statement that her husband, Shaun Hogan, is an osteopath and she is a partner in his osteopathy business Hogan Osteo Plus. The Hogan website claims it’s the only New Zealand provider of the “Fenzian treatment”. ACC assessed that treatment in 2007 and decided there wasn’t enough evidence to claim it’s effective.
This list is by no means complete. If you have any other leads on potential quacks, please email them to email@example.com
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.