UPDATED: Fluoride Free Hastings plans to continue its campaign to remove fluoride from the Hastings water supply, despite the results of a referendum showing support for fluoridation to continue in the district.
The referendum was held alongside the Hastings District Council local government elections and asked people to say whether or not they wanted to keep fluoride in the water supply. The provisional results released today showed there were 9512 votes for “yes” and 5461 for “no”.
Spokesperson Angela Hair said she was disappointed for the 5461 Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere people who voted to stop fluoridation and had hoped to see an end to 60 years of the chemical in the water.
“Referenda are traditionally heavily weighted in favour of older people and the status quo. We know from canvassing that young people are much more likely to be against fluoride but not necessarily vote.”
She said only 25 per cent of the eligible voters, voted for fluoridation this year compared with 37 per cent who voted for it in 1990.
“This means 25 per cent of eligible voters are effectively imposing their view on the rest of society and at least 5461 people and their families are forced to continue to have fluoride who clearly don’t want it.”
Mrs Hair said Hastings District Council had a responsibility to provide fluoride free potable water for all those who would choose not to have fluoride.
She said the fluoride referendum had been a challenging campaign and Fluoride Free Hastings had operated on a small budget, about $6000 funded by individual donations.
“And it was always going to be difficult to compete for exposure against the $50,000 taxpayer funded campaign mounted by the (Hawke’s Bay) District Health Board.”
The DHB had campaigned to retain fluoride in the water supply, advocating it was “the single most cost effective public health measure” to aid dental health care.
Mrs Hair claimed many more thousands of dollars was spent by Ministry of Health and NZ Dental Association to support the case to keep fluoride in Hastings.
“This money should have been spent on promoting good nutrition and oral care, rather than continuing to defend the outdated water fluoridation practice that is being rejected by communities world-wide.
The extravagant waste of taxpayers’ money on signage, advertising and internet promotions should be condemned.”
Fluoride Free Hastings believed the low voter turnout had a significant impact on the outcome. It said young people do not tend to vote. Older people do vote but “generally trust their dentists and doctors”, who were advocating for fluoride during the referendum.
Mrs Hair said the group would lobby the DHB to conduct fluoride blood tests and would collate fluoride blood tests itself, if residents decide to self-test.”
“Fluoride Free Hastings remains committed to ensuring that in time water fluoridation in Hastings will cease.”
“The Hastings community has spoken and it wants to keep fluoride in the Hastings water supply,” the DHB said in a statement this afternoon.
The referendum was held alongside the Hastings District Council election, asking people whether or not they wanted to keep fluoride in the district’s water supply.
DHB chief executive Kevin Snee said with the majority of votes in, the provisional result was 9512 “yes” to fluoride and 5461 “no”.
Mr Snee thanked voters who had “clearly made their voice heard” over the hotly debated issue.
“Not only is the science settled, so now to is the argument. The community had made the right choice, fluoridation was the single most cost-effective public health measure there was.
“We wanted to make our voice heard in this referendum, and I think we have done that.”
Mr Snee thanked his staff and especially clinical director of oral health Dr Robin Whyman who had attended countless meetings, media inquiries and helped advise at a national level.
“Fluoride is one of the most vexatious issues there is and this has been a challenging time for my staff and for the community being faced with so many opposing views.
“It’s a big issue and we have had to focus on it which has distracted us from the real work we try to do every day which is to provide a quality, safe health service and reduce disparity in our community.”
Dr Snee said he believed fluoridation of community water supplies was not an issue that should be decided by local authorities and he would be pursing that view at a national level in the near future.
Hawke’s Bay anti-fluoride campaigners signaled they would release a statement shortly on the outcome of referendum.
In a similar case, Hamilton City Council held a fluoridation referendum and results showed about 70 per cent of voters wanted fluoride in their water, after the city council removed fluoride earlier this year.