The people of Waikato, Whakatane and Hastings have voted in referendums on whether to add fluoride to their water supply.
In June, the Hamilton City Council stopped fluoridation even though they did not have a public mandate.
However, today’s Hamilton City Council community water fluoridation referendum results show that 70% of voters want to have fluoride in their water.
According to the Waikato District Health Board, 23,000 people voted for fluoridation and 10,000 voted against it.
For 47 years fluoride was added at the rate of about one spoonful of fluoride per full bathtub of water, the DHB said.
“The positive result is absolutely what we would have expected being that the decision to remove fluoride was lobbied by an active minority rather than the average ratepayer going about their business,” said Waikato District Health Board chief executive Craig Climo.
“It hasn’t come as a surprise. It was only in 2006 that Hamilton overwhelmingly voted to retain fluoride in the water after it was brought to referendum then as well.”
Around half of New Zealanders drink fluoridated water, and it appears many would like to continue.
All the areas voting on fluoride had a clear margin in favour.
Adding to Hamilton’s result, 76% of voters supported fluoridation in the wider Waikato district, Hastings had 63% in favour, and 61% want fluoride added to the water supply in Whakatane.
Waikato DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Felicity Dumble says fluoride has health benefits.
“The strength of the science on this is quite clear; that fluoridation does benefit your teeth and that it’s safe. So, it comes down to what the community need and respect and want,” she said.
Hamilton City Council held a tribunal earlier this year, resulting in city councillors voting 7-1 to remove fluoride, although four councillors, who were also on the Waikato DHB board, did not vote.
Mr Climo said it was disappointing that the issue came to tribunal in the first place and that the DHB had to spend so much time and effort on the referendum when there are other major challenges in health.
The DHB spent $47,000 on its pro-fluoride campaign, $8000 of that on billboards and banners.
However, following a petition, Hamilton City Council narrowly voted to hold a referendum at the same time as the local body elections.
Dr Dumble has been involved in the last two community water fluoridation referenda in Hamilton and says the non-binding nature means it’s not yet over.
“I’m obviously pleased with the results, but the important thing is that the new council listen to the opinion of their community,” she said.
Mr Climo said Waikato DHB would support other communities who have had fluoride removed from the water (such as Taumarunui and Morrinsville) and encouraged every community that doesn’t currently have the privilege of water fluoridation to raise the issue with their local councillors.
There are a number of towns in the Waikato DHB region, including Cambridge and Te Awamutu, who could now expect to receive submissions from public health officials as part of their annual plan processes, he said.