THE New Plymouth District Council yesterday ruled out any prospect of fluoride being added to the water supplies of Inglewood and Kaitake.

In a surprise move, the council overturned a recommendation of its own policy committee to hold referenda in the two areas.

Yesterday’s decision was clear, with only councillor Mike Merrick voting against the change of direction.

The flip-flop disappointed Lyndie Foster Page, who was one of two dentists urging the council to add fluoride to the remaining water supplies in the New Plymouth district.

“It surprises and disappoints me. We had the full support of the District Health Board too.

“Now we’ll continue to have decay rates higher than New Plymouth, especially among the poorer socio-economic groups,” she said.

The Inglewood and Kaitake community board chairpersons, Jean Pierce and Sue Henchman, also had a change of heart.

They told councillors they were now against holding referenda, despite their respective boards recommending last month they do so.

After yesterday’s council meeting, Mrs Pierce said she had consulted her board members earlier in the day after hearing of a possible move to do away with the referenda.

“They supported the change unanimously. I’ve only had one phone call. We had a poll 10 years ago and 91% were against adding fluoride.

“I think the community will be happy with the decision. And the $30,000 cost of holding a referendum was an awful lot of money.”

Mrs Henchman was also unrepentant about her new stance. “Originally we went with the referenda and, normally, I wouldn’t go back on a vote, but in this particular instance I can see the sense in staying with the status quo.” She had not discussed it with her board, but was confident it would support her.

Councillor Elaine Gill led the move to over-rule the policy committee’s decision. She said the previous council had debated the fluoride issue and held a tribunal on it because there was a groundswell of opinion in New Plymouth.

“I don’t feel there is the same feeling about it now. I just wasn’t supportive of the committee’s recommendation. I would stress that I am not anti-fluoride, in fact I’m very much for it.”

Mr Merrick was the only one to vote against the move. “That’s because I believe referenda is an appropriate way of dealing with the issue. I suggested it when New Plymouth debated it, but had no support then.”

Mayor Peter Tennent said that although the council did not make a habit of rejecting the recommendations of its standing committees, it had every right to.

“Revisiting it is democracy in action.”