14 Oct 2013

Vote revives Hamilton fluoride row

6:20 am on 14 October 2013

An anti-fluoridation group wants Hamilton City Council to ignore a referendum result and resist putting fluoride into the city's water supply again.

The council stopped fluoridating the water in July but decided to hold a referendum in conjunction with Saturday's local government election.

Hamilton residents voted overwhelmingly for the return of fluoride to the city's water supply in the non-binding poll. Of those who voted 23,000 were in favour and 10,000 against - a 70% vote in favour of fluoridation.

Mary Byrne of the Fluoride Action Network says the wishes of the 10,000 voters who do not want fluoride added to the water must be respected.

"To vote for fluoridation means taking away the right to informed consent to medical treatment, so how does that reconcile when that's one of our basic, fundamental rights."

She said the new council must recognise the referendum has strengthened the resolve and capacity of the anti-fluoridation movement and the battle against it will escalate.

A senior dentistry lecturer at Otago University, Jonathan Broadbent, says the resounding yes vote shows the city council is out of touch with the people it represents and it should honour the referendum result.

"If the local government officials aren't listening to the New Zealand health authorities, scientists, they're not listening to their own constituents, then something's wrong with politics."

He says in the lead-up to the referendum, he received emails from anti-fluoride campaigners telling him to keep his mouth shut.

Mayor Julie Hardaker says even though she voted to stop fluoridation, she will support the referendum result.

She says she still believes the tribunal hearing process the council held earlier in the year, which prompted it to stop fluoridation, was the right one.

But The Fluoride Free Network, a group opposed to the fluoridation of the Hamilton water supply, says regardless of a 70% vote in favour, it doesn't believe it's a mandate to reinstate fluoride.

The Fluoride Free Network says, with turnout so low, only 23% of voters voted for fluoridation.

It says this should mean the council sticks by its decision in July to stop fluoridating the water.