A near record of more than 400 submissions has been lodged with the New Plymouth District Council as it prepares to debate its water fluoridation scheme.
About 50 of the submitters will present further oral submissions at a two-day council tribunal this month.
Following the tribunal councillors will decide whether to continue the fluoridation of water supplies in New Plymouth, Waitara, Urenui and Onaero, begin fluoridating the Okato, Inglewood and Oakura supplies as well or drop the practice altogether.
The issue appears to have grown more contentious than the previous time it was debated, in 2000, when just 23 public representations were made, nine of which wanted fluoridation removed, 13 that it stay, and one, from Barnardos, was neutral.
What the balance is this time will be known to only those willing to wade through more than 2000 pages of submissions, something the district’s councillors are expected to do within the next 16 days.
“To give credit to the people who have made submissions they deserve to be read,” councillor Maurice Betts said yesterday.
“To a degree they are the same as 11 years ago and that is to do with credibility and that’s on both sides of the argument,” Mr Betts said.
Councillor Shaun Biesiek was so impressed by the six volumes of submissions he posted a picture of the literature on his Facebook page.
“I am just about to start volume three and I have this morning off work to get more done,” he said yesterday.
One of those Mr Biesiek would have already read came from the Parihaka-based Urs Signer, who is one of the four still battling charges from the Urewera “terror” raids. “We live in a time totally dependent on chemicals.
“So it comes as no surprise that the council think it’s OK to add chemicals to the drinking water of a whole town or district,” Mr Signer wrote.
Another regular submitter, New Plymouth’s Rusty Kane, implored the council to stand up for its community.
“There will be many submissions for and against adding fluoride to the district’s water supplies.
“Mainly the well-resourced Taranaki District Health Board for and the under-resourced community groups against.
“As community representatives I believe your responsibility is to represent the wishes of your community, not do the bidding of the TDHB,” he wrote.
For its part the TDHB Dental Therapists urged “the NPDC to make the right decision to support the fluoridation of all Taranaki water supplies”.
In a separate submission the TDHB said it supported the Health Ministry position, which recommends fluoridation of drinking water to provide protection against tooth decay.
The longest submission was 315 pages from Mark Atkin, legal and scientific adviser to Fluoride Action Network and the New Zealand Fluoridation Information Service, calling for a suspension of the district’s fluoridation programme.
The tribunal will sit at council chambers on September 29-30.