Hamilton fluoride referendum won't really count

Ewan Wilson says the council isn't under any legal obligation to stick to referendum result.Photo / File
Ewan Wilson says the council isn't under any legal obligation to stick to referendum result.Photo / File

A referendum on the controversial issue of fluoridating Hamilton's water supply will not be legally binding.

The council opted to carry out a public vote on the hot topic after a controversial tribunal decision ended fluoridation last month.

It will take place during local council elections this October alongside a second referendum on whether to adopt the Single Transferable Vote system.

But no matter what the public come down in favour of, the council is under no legal obligation to stick to it, said councillor Ewan Wilson.

Under law, decisions made by referendum do not have to be upheld by a subsequent council, and since the vote takes place alongside council elections, it will be up to the new council to decide whether to stick to the public ballot.

This may cause problems if the vote is closely run, said Mr Wilson, a vocal supporter of water fluoridation.

"It would be a full council that would decide and that's made very easy if there's a clear majority, it becomes slightly less clear if it's a 50/50 split," he said.

Mr Wilson described the situation as "that's democracy", and said: "It would be an ill-advised council who would ignore the clear majority of a public decision."

Council will meet this week to discuss the wording on the referendum ballot papers, something which is also likely to provoke "a lot of heat", Mr Wilson said.

He also defended the estimated cost of the fluoride referendum, saying $12,000 is much cheaper than the $120,000 it would cost to hold if it had not been called alongside local elections.

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