Residents in part of the West Coast have voted overwhelmingly against adding fluoride to their drinking water.
The result of the referendum means people in Greymouth and outlying areas will join eight other towns and cities around the country that do not use fluoride
Opponents are delighted but health professionals are dismayed, saying locals health will continue to suffer.
Over 70% of the 6,000 votes were opposed to the plan to fluoridate the water.
It is a result that has dismayed Principal Dental Health Officer of Health Dr Martin Lee.
“The oral health of West Coasters is among the worst in the country which puts them amongst the worst in Australasia,” says Lee.
About 60% of New Zealanders drink fluoridated water.
The Greymouth council decided five months ago to fluoridate, partly because the local hospital treat 80 children every year under general anaesthetic and a quarter of adults do not have their own teeth.
But opponents forced a backdown, saying fluoride had serious side effects.
Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says it was a campaign that had an element of emotion to it.
“There was a lot of people who had drawn a line in the sand and definitely hardened opinions on either side,” says Kokshoorn.
Lee says he is frustrated because the decision had nothing to do with science or evidence-based healthcare. “It’s all about politics of fear and unfortunately real people suffer as a result.”
However Greymouth residents it seems are willing to take the gamble.