Rotorua District Council has voted to hold a referendum to determine residents’ views on whether the district’s water supplies should be fluoridated.
The decision was taken this morning at a meeting of the council’s Strategy, Policy & Finance Committee.
In a close vote the committee resolved to support a referendum on the fluoride issue and to make the referendum result binding on the council.
This morning’s vote was initially tied at 5-5 before being carried 6-5 on the casting vote of the committee chair, Councillor Merepeka-Raukawa-Tait.
Elected members supporting the referendum were councillors Raukawa-Tait, Mike McVicker, Tania Tapsell, Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson and Mayor Steve Chadwick.
Voting against the proposal were councillors Charles Sturt, Glenys Searancke, Rob Kent, Peter Bentley and Mark Gould.
Councillor Karen Hunt abstained from voting saying she could see the merits of both sides.
However following the committee meeting six councillors signed a ‘notice of motion’ which means the referendum decision will now be re-debated at the next council meeting on 31 July.
Debate at this morning’s committee meeting was robust with most councillors taking the opportunity to speak on the referendum proposal.
Cr Raukawa-Tait, who supported the referendum proposal, said it was the “voice of the community” that councillors wanted to hear on the issue.
“They shouldn’t be denied that,” she said.
Opposing the proposal Councillor Charles Sturt said going to a referendum was “the soft way out.”
“We (councillors) can make the decision as we have done many times in the past,” he said.
Notwithstanding the issue being up for further debate at the next full council meeting, council officers will now work on preparation of a report to be presented to the next Strategy, Policy & Finance Committee meeting on 13 August.
The report will provide information on timing options for holding the referendum, voting procedures and a range of other process details and information.