About 50 anti-fluoride protesters gathered on the steps of Hastings District Council yesterday to return bottles of fluoridated tap water.

The protesters met Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule and asked him to return the issue of fluoridated water to the council agenda.

The fluoride debate was an ongoing issue in Hastings, Flaxmere and Havelock North areas where tap water was fluoridated on the advice of the Ministry of Health, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and international studies.

The anti-fluoride campaign challenged the health benefits and argued the chemical was a toxin that should be removed from drinking water.

One of the protesters Jackie Blair from Hastings said to Mr Yule: “Just pure water please” as she placed a bottle of tap water at his feet. She later said the main issue at hand was the lack of choice.

“It’s something I’ve become aware of more recently since I became a parent. There isn’t a choice and that seems quite wrong.”

Another raised the issue of consent, and said mass medication was “unethical”.

In June, the council voted seven votes to six not to take the issue of fluoridating water to public referendum.

However, Mr Yule agreed with the protesters that the issue to fluoridate water should be a democratic decision and promised to raise the issue of public referendum with the newly-elected council.

“This year I asked the council whether they would have a referendum to reconsider and they said no.

My view is that people should be allowed to decide and I think we’re being quite fair about it. I know you want [fluoride removed] quicker, but that’s for the community to decide.”

At the request of the protesters, Mr Yule also agreed to meet with the director of international anti-fluoride organisation Paul Connet when he visits New Zealand next year.

Hastings last voted to fluoridate its water supply 20 years ago.