The National Party candidate favoured to win the Hamilton East electorate held views directly opposed to the party's leader on fluoridation of water and vaccine mandates.
Ryan Hamilton has voiced support for groups that spread misinformation about fluoridation.
He refuses to be interviewed but the National Party claims he has changed his mind about the fluoridation of water, after more than two decades of public opposition.
In social media posts, Hamilton claimed Covid deaths data had been inflated and once said poverty was not a reason to fluoridate water because "most lower socio economics filled their tap water with raro".
Hamilton's posts are revealed in a new episode of Undercurrent, an RNZ podcast released today.
Opposition to fluoride in drinking water
Hamilton, a Hamilton City Councillor, has consistently and openly opposed fluoridation of water for more than two decades.
In 2013, he posted a comment on a Facebook post by TVNZ's Seven Sharp about fluoride which said: "Get rid of fluoride. The poverty issue is redundant, most lower socio economics fill their tap water with raro so pull the other one."
Fluoride is added to drinking water to improve the dental health of children and adults. Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated it is effective and that there are no significant adverse effects from fluoridation at the levels used in New Zealand.
In another post, Hamilton praised 'Fluoride Free Hamilton & NZ', a group that has published extensive misinformation about fluoride. In 2016, he said he was "with the minority" in opposition to fluoride and had been for 22 years.
Hamilton's views are in sharp contrast with the National Party he now represents.
In 2021, National MPs voted strongly in favour of a bill giving the Director-General of Health powers to enforce fluoridation of water. The party's local government spokesman at the time was Christopher Luxon who stated in Parliament he shared concerns about "rampant misinformation" on the topic.
"The National Party is backing the science of fluoridation - no doubt about it," Luxon said.
"We have 60 years of history, we have a Royal Society of New Zealand report on it, we have our Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor's advice on it, and I want the public to know that it's incredibly safe. It's completely safe and reasonable that we are doing this."
Luxon was elected National leader about three weeks after he gave this speech.
Views on Covid and vaccine mandates
A similar pattern applies to Hamilton's position on Covid vaccine mandates. In a series of social media comments, Hamilton made it clear he was opposed to the National Party's position on mandates.
He commented "well said" to one which called on Luxon to explain why he hadn't fought against "illegal mandates".
Days before mandates for teachers and health workers took effect, he said a post opposing them represented how he was feeling.
In another, he criticised National for "sitting on their hands" in response to the protests at Parliament.
He has also described protecting the vulnerable from Covid as "a carefully constructued manipulative guilt inducing narrative". And he suggested data on Covid fatalities reported by coroners "seems set up only to inflate the death numbers for the propaganda machine."
In 2021, he was the only Hamilton City Councillor to oppose not letting the unvaccinated enter some council buildings.
These comments have won him support from groups such as Voices for Freedom, which has a record of fanning misinformation. Hamilton's social media accounts also follow many mis-information spreaders, including a radical fringe political party 'NNP: New Nation Party'.
National Party responds, Hamilton ignores interview requests
The Hamilton East electorate was a National Party stronghold - held by David Bennett for 15 years - before Labour MP Jamie Strange took the seat in 2020. But as the tide turns against Labour, it's widely expected the seat could once again be blue.
So what is Hamilton's position on fluoridation, mandates and misinformation now he's representing the National Party? It's unclear.
RNZ's multiple requests for an interview with Hamilton from the beginning of last week have gone unanswered. Instead, the National Party interceded and provided an unsolicited statement in Hamilton's name, addressing the 'raro' comment from 2013 and his track record on fluoridation and mandates.
"I made this Facebook comment a decade ago - it was a rash comment and I apologise. I've opposed fluoridation in the past but now fully back National's position," the statement said.
"I am vaccinated against Covid-19 but as a Hamilton City Councillor, I opposed mandates for entry to council facilities because I did not support this additional restriction."
Late last week, RNZ was by told Hamilton's associates he is overseas. It's understood he was due to speak at a candidates debate on Friday but gave his apologies.