Hamilton residents will decide themselves whether they want fluoride in their drinking water.
Hamilton City Council voted 11-3 for a binding referendum on the issue yesterday during an emotive meeting which developed into a physical confrontation.
Hillcrest dentist Steven Pawley, who councillor Roger Hennebry verbally attacked during the earlier debate, later approached Cr Hennebry in the debating chamber and grabbed his jacket and spun him around. Cr Hennebry had been moving away under orders from Mayor Michael Redman.
The dentist then turned on councillor Dave Macpherson, who had criticised Mr Pawley during the debate. Chief executive Tony Marryatt moved in to usher the New Zealand Dental Association spokesman out of the chamber.
Cr Hennebry today said he was emotional because Mr Pawley, during a telephone conversation with his wife Jane Hennebry the previous day, had called him “ignorant and rude” because he was anti-fluoride.
Mr Pawley denied he upset Mrs Hennebry and simply wanted to clear the issue up with Cr Hennebry.
The referendum will be held by postal ballot which closes on May 13.
The mayor and several councillors also attacked Waikato District Health Board’s role during the fluoride debate.
Mr Redman said it was a “cynical threat” by board chairman Michael Ludbrook to say the board would consider cutting health services to meet ballooning costs of dental treatment if fluoride was removed from Hamilton’s water supply.
Waikato Medical Officer of Health Felicity Dumble today said it was the health board’s job to promote good health and fluoride was part of that.
On Saturday Mr Ludbrook argued the council’s telephone poll on fluoride, which resulted in 63 per cent of the public saying they wanted fluoridation to continue and another 17 per cent saying they were neutral on the issue, was enough of a mandate for the council to continue putting fluoride in the water.
Deputy mayor Bob Simcock said he had expected a more moderate tone from the health board and he had now lost trust because of the board’s actions.
The Waikato Times was also criticised by many councillors for the articles it ran on fluoride and for supporting a referendum. Councillor Peter Bos said councillors were elected every three years which was enough of a referendum.
Cr Bos said the telephone poll had proved to him the public wanted fluoride to continue.
“Why spend more on to find out something we already know? If we are trying to put this to sleep once and for all, it won’t.”
Councillor Daphne Bell, who along with Cr Simcock and Cr Bos voted against a referendum, said she doubted whether fluoride was a suitable referendum topic. The average voter was not well equipped to make a decision, she said.
Cr Macpherson urged councillors to have faith in democracy.
Councillors who voted for a binding referendum were:
Michael Redman, Gordon Chesterman, Joe Di Maio, John Gower, Roger Hennebry, Dave Macpherson, Glenda Saunders, Grant Thomas, Maria Westphal, Pippa Mahood, Ewan Wilson. Against: Daphne Bell, Peter Bos, Bob Simcock.