Experts from both sides of the fluoride debate will update the Dunedin City Council on the issue, after residents in the city’s northern communities opposed to fluoridation asked for a referendum.

Opponents wanted a referendum on whether water containing fluoride should be piped northwards in a new $9.3 million scheme that is replacing small, local, unfluoridated supplies.

Water from the scheme is expected to start flowing in August or September .

Yesterday’s infrastructure services committee voted against the referendum, but did vote to have qualified people from both sides of the debate provide a briefing, so long as it did not turn into a debate between the two sides.

Representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Otago District Health Board and Public Health South would be invited to address questions raised recently by submitters to the council who opposed fluoridation.

But water and waste services manager John Mackie said they wanted to present their evidence, not get into a two-sided debate.

Cr Dave Cull said he wanted to hear both sides of the debate, noting asbestos had once been considered safe by experts.

Cr Neil Collins said if people in those communities “want their kids running round with their teeth falling out, so be it”.

But an inexpensive filter would produce the same result.

Cr Noone said a credible person would be found to present the anti-fluoride argument, but the meeting would not become a debate, rather a presentation of facts.

He expected it to take place in the next two weeks.