Hamilton dentists are threatening to withdraw from providing free dental care to people under 18, if the city votes to stop fluoridating its water.
The city council has voted to hold a binding referendum on the issue in May.
The Dental Association has been one of the strongest advocates for the continued use of fluoride and Steven Pawley from the association’s Waikato branch says the issue is complex and should be left to the professionals.
He says dentists will be extremely unhappy if fluoride goes.
Pawley says referenda traditionally tend to attract only people who have strong views on a subject, which will favour an anti-fluoride vote.
Hamilton Mayor Michael Redman has criticised the government for its lack of leadership in the fluoridation debate.
He says while central government promotes fluoride as an essential health tool, it passes the buck to local councils to decide what is always a controversial issue.
Redman says he hopes the health authorities conduct a good campaign promoting fluoride. He hopes they don’t make what he calls threats, such as spending less on health care to make up for more dental care if fluoride is taken out of the water.
An anti-fluoridation group in Hamilton says it is concerned health authorities will bombard residents with taxpayer funded pro-fluoride information in the run up to the referendum.
Carren McConnell from the Fluoride Action Network says the campaign will only be fair if it is conducted on a level playing field.
McConnell says it is a milestone for the community to finally be able to have a say on what happens to its water.