Rotorua people will not get their say on whether they want fluoride in their water.
Rotorua District councillors last night voted 7-6 against holding a referendum during the local body elections later this year.
Eastside residents will also not have their water chlorinated after councillors voted against it.
Water was the subject of two heated debates at last night council’s meeting. Debate on the fluoride referendum attracted about 30 members of the public including Lakes District Health Board members.
The debate was prompted by a submission to the council’s annual plan by board member Rob Vigor Brown who had asked for a binding referendum.
He said Rotorua had the second worst oral health rate for 5-year-olds in New Zealand and only 15 per cent of Maori children under the age of five had no fillings in their teeth compared to 66 per cent in Waitemata.
Several councillors supported the referendum including Mike McVicker who proposed it.
Deputy mayor Trevor Maxwell said the issue would just keep coming up and it should be left to Rotorua residents to decide.
“This is the third time this has come up and it is going to come up more and more. There’s no doubt it’s going to be an election issue.”
Debate also surrounded how the referendum would be held and whether there was any way council would know from the results which residents in each of the 10 water supply areas wanted fluoridation.
Councillor Charles Sturt said the call for fluoridation was politically motivated and there had been no “major cry” for it. Councillor Russell Judd said he would not support any referendum at the cost of ratepayers.
“If I want more fluoride in my diet I will swallow some of my toothpaste.”
Mr Vigor Brown told the Daily Post he was disappointed a referendum would not be held but said the fight was not over yet.
“Seven councillors have ignored the most significant health issue of our community. This issue is not going to go away.”
Meanwhile, the council’s proposal to chlorinate the Eastern suburbs water supply also didn’t get the green light.
The supply, like most of the other nine in the city, is sourced from natural springs.
The Eastern Suburbs water supply is the only one not chlorinated.
Council officers said adding chlorine to the supply would make sure it met strict new health standards by reducing the risk of bacteria and viruses and contamination.
Four Lynmore women, calling themselves the “silent protesters” were at the meeting, opposing the move to chlorinate.
At one stage the women held up signs saying “rubbish” – an action which Rotorua mayor Kevin Winters warned them against doing again.
Councillors argued about whether Eastside residents wanted their water supply chlorinated and whether the evidence showed that adding the chemical would reduce diseases like giardia or chryptosporidium.
Councillor Glenys Searancke said this was an issue of “public health”.
While the eastern suburbs’ water supply will not be chlorinated, councillors voted in favour of other treatment going ahead including applying UV light to the water at its source.
Once that treatment is installed councillors want all water supplies reviewed to determine if chlorine is still needed.
Protester Suzanne Mexted-Dykes told the Daily Post she was pleased her water would not be chlorinated.
“Common sense has prevailed.”