Tony Bonne, who moved the resolution to remove fluoride, said only 30 percent of residents voted in the non-binding referendum, and councillors had more evidence to consider.
“We listened to the experts. The referendum was a guide from the feeling of people who did vote, so we’ve made a decision.”
Mr Bonne said, however, that it should not be left to local bodies to make public health decisions and he would welcome stronger direction from central government.
Julie Turner said she was gutted the district council had narrowly voted to remove fluoride from all its water supplies, despite most residents voting to retain it in a referendum.
She said central government and the Health Ministry could not leave such a critical public health measure to local bodies.
“There’s actually quite a lot of councils now that don’t fluoridate their water, and I think that’s incredibly sad and again that’s why the Ministry of Health needs to step up.”
Whakatane dentist John Twaddle said the decision will have a devastating impact on children’s oral health.
Mr Twaddle, who has been practising in the region for more than 40 years, said he can almost tell by looking in a child’s mouth whether they live in an area with fluoridation.
“The children from outlying areas already arrive at our surgery with holes in their teeth that have been left for a little while, and once that hole gets through the enamel… it sort of explodes inside the tooth and there’s a big area of decay.”
It’s a travesty that the council has ignored both scientific evidence and residents’ wishes, he said.
A Bay of Plenty health official said children would inevitably suffer more rotten teeth following the council’s decision to stop fluoridating water.
Te Te Ora medical officer of health Neil de Wet said it was disappointing the council had gone against both the scientific evidence and the overwhelming support of residents in a recent referendum.
“In the New Zealand oral health survey undertaken in 2009 we saw that fluoridated areas had about 40 percent less tooth decay in children, so that’s the type of benefit that we stand to lose.”
He said nearly 66 percent of Whakatane residents and more than 70 percent of Ohope residents voted to retain fluoride in the referendum.
The council voted six to five to scrap it.