District water users may get fluoride say

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Waikato district householders connected to Hamilton city’s water supply may get a chance to vote in a referendum on fluoridation of the water.

Waikato users of Hamilton city water may get a say in October's referendum on fluoridation
Waikato users of Hamilton city water may get a say in October’s referendum on fluoridation

A referendum is to be held in Hamilton at the October local body elections on the city council’s controversial decision to remove fluoride from the city water, a move that also affects hundreds of Waikato district households.

The Waikato District Council will explore with the city council whether district property owners can have a say in the referendum, Waikato District Council Service Delivery General Manager Tim Harty told Tamahere Forum.

There are 2500 connections to city water in the Waikato district. Some properties have more than one connection to the supply and the council could not say how many households or voters could potentially be eligible to vote in the referendum. However, it seems certain there will be a significant number who may want to have a say in whether their water is fluoridated or not.

Fluoride was removed from the city’s water supply on June 21 after a decision earlier in the month by a city council tribunal of eight councillors. The vote was 7:1.

The highly controversial move came after a referendum in the city in 2006 in which 70% of participating Hamilton voters supported continued fluoridation. The result was supposed to be binding.

This year’s decision, following intense lobbying by anti-fluoride campaigners, disappointed health officials.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Felicity Dumble, said the councillors who had voted it out discounted the mainstream opinion of the vast majority of dentists and doctors in Hamilton and in New Zealand.

City councillor Ewan Wilson initiated the move for the latest referendum after he invited signatures from members of the public to get the matter discussed at an extraordinary council meeting. The invitation quickly gathered 2700 signatures from eligible voters.

The prompt support is not surprising. The most recent quarterly residents’ survey found 50.2% support fluoridation, with 31% opposing, while an on-line citizen’s panel survey showed 56.1% wanting continuation, and 43.9% opposed.

City councillors voted 7 to 6 to hold a referendum. It will not be binding.

The council also requested that key players in the referendum process have a voluntary spending cap.

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