FLUORIDATION and plans for a petition have thrown at least one Rotorua district councillor into a spin just days out from the local body election.
Bob Martin, who is seeking re-election in the North Ward, is angry Rotorua MP Steve Chadwick has reignited the fluoride debate by announcing she plans to organise a petition.
The Labour backbencher wants to hear the community’s view on whether to fluoridate Rotorua’s water supplies.
She said a petition calling for fluoridation was needed after the Rotorua District Council voted 7-6 against holding a binding referendum on the issue in tandem with the local body elections.
The petition would be paid for by her electorate office.
The results would be passed on to Minister of Health Pete Hodgson who, at a meeting at Ohinemutu earlier this year, said he would not legislate for fluoridation until he had a better picture of the public’s view.
Under existing laws, councils have the power to decide whether to fluoridate.
After Saturday’s local body election Mrs Chadwick plans to approach the new district councillors and Lakes District Health Board members to support a petition.
However, her announcement has angered Mr Martin who says she shouldn’t be meddling in council decision-making so close to an election.
He said it was “a bit rich” for Mrs Chadwick to be criticising the council for not fluoridating, or holding a referendum, when she made little effort to have water fluoridated when she was a district councillor in the 1990s.
However, Mrs Chadwick said Rotorua’s problem with tooth decay was a serious public health issue and fluoridation was an effective way of solving it.
She supports legislating for fluoride to be added to public water supplies, citing her own experience as a “fluoride baby” growing up in Hastings.
The region was one of the first in New Zealand to fluoridate in the 1950s and the low tooth decay level of its residents has been attributed to fluoridation by dental experts.
Mrs Chadwick didn’t need a filling until she was 26.
Meanwhile, the idea of a petition has divided Rotorua mayoral candidates as much as fluoridation has.
Kevin Winters and Lyall Thurston were reluctant to be drawn on whether they supported fluoridation, although they admitted drinking fluoridated water as children.
Like Mrs Chadwick, Mr Thurston was a “fluoride guinea pig” in Hastings and told the Daily Post “no dentist has ever made money out of my mouth”.
He prefers a council-initiated referendum in conjunction with an education campaign about fluoridation.
Rotorua has 10 water supplies and Mr Winters said he wanted to hold a referendum in each community.
Deputy mayor Trevor Maxwell said he had been through two “strong” debates on the issue without a resolution.
“The people were really divided on the issue,” he said.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said she believed it was an issue for local government to decide, not one for Steve Chadwick to drive.
“I’m of the belief there should be a referendum on the issue that is driven by council,” she said.
Fluoride-advocate Cliff Lee said he would support a petition.
Last month John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said he was disgusted to learn at a meeting between primary and secondary school principals and dental health experts how bad Rotorua’s dental problem was.
Mr Walsh said not fluoridating was a form of child abuse.