Two councillors are pushing to get fluoride back in New Plymouth’s water supply but facing opposition.
Councillors Gordon Brown and Richard Handley have been campaigning behind closed council doors to get fluoride back on the agenda.
However, fellow councillor Shaun Biesiek said the pair were the only two pushing for it and it was unlikely it would be on the council table this term.
Fluoride was taken out of the city’s water in 2011 after a unanimous decision by councillors and has since caused ongoing and heated debate.
Brown said he and Handley, who is on the Taranaki District Health Board, were pushing hard for a second round of debates on the issue.
“We keep hearing from the community that they want fluoride back in the water. It needs to be debated again. This is not going away,” Brown said.
“And I will almost guarantee the community will get to have their say on this before this term is up.”
Brown signalled there could be a non-binding referendum on the issue, as there was in 2013 in Whakatane, Hastings and Hamilton, where voters asked for fluoride to either be kept in their water supply, or put back in.
Biesiek said there would always be groups pushing to debate fluoride again, regardless of whether it was in or out of the water supply.
“At our monthly councillors chat mayor Andrew Judd asked us if we wanted it back on the agenda,” Biesiek said.
“There was no real move for that because fluoride is down the list of important issues this term.
“We have the Long Term Plan and related issues, the 30-year infrastructure strategy, the district plan review and the blueprint for the whole district. That takes us into next year.
“That’s topped off with the by-election and the Maori ward referendum.”
Judd also agreed the council had a lot of pressing work to do before it could look at fluoride again.
However, he said he would be open to seeing the issue go to a non-binding referendum at the next local body election in 2016.
Handley said the public debate was already heating up and people wanted to see action. “I support the community being given the opportunity to express their view, which I believe is overwhelmingly in support of fluoride,” he said.
City-ward by-election candidate Reuben Doyle has been campaigning on getting fluoride back into the district’s water supply and said it was a crucial public health issue.
“After 40 years of fluoridation in New Plymouth there was no mandate to cease it in 2011. The council received over 400 submissions, with the majority coming from non-residents,” he said.
“Our council was arrogant to think that they knew more than the World Health Organisation, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Dental Association.”
He said two-thirds of the doors he had knocked on while campaigning were answered by people who wanted fluoride back.