The refluoridation of Ashburton’s water supply could come back into the public arena after the Ashburton District Council adopts its work plan for the coming year.

An impassioned plea for the fluoridation of the town’s water supply was made by the Canterbury District Health Board during last week’s hearings on the council’s Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP).

Evidence was produced that indicated a 25 per cent increase in cavities in the teeth of six-year-olds since fluoride was removed from Ashburton’s water supply four years ago.

A strong public petition led by Don and Robyn Church was responsible for the removal of fluoride, and Mayor Bede O’Malley said it would require a similar level of public concern to see it reinstated.

While council will discuss the fluoridation issue next week, it would be included along with the other 102 submissions on a wide range of subjects. For fluoride to be properly debated, it would need to make its way onto a council agenda, Mr O’Malley said.

Strong councillor support could see this happen.

A public petition would be the other way to revive the fluoride debate, Mr O’Malley said.

His personal attitude to fluoride was clear, he said.

“I voted for fluoride to remain in Ashburton’s water four years ago and I voted for it to remain in Methven’s water, that’s a matter of public record.”

The cost of fluoridating the town’s water supply was not significant, Mr O’Malley said.

In the lead-up to the removal of fluoride from the public water supply four years ago, there was not the level of public consultation that was around today, he said.

Council chief executive Brian Lester said the council was likely to include the reopening of the fluoride debate as part of its action plan for the coming year.

“It needs to be included in the LTCCP and put out for public comment,” he said.

Because the subject had not been raised as a council initiative, fluoride could not simply be reintroduced to the town’s water. However, now it had been raised, it was likely to become an issue that went out for community debate and discussion. Mr Lester said.