The Whakatane District Council's Policy Committee has voted to stop adding fluoride to any of the district's public water supplies.
After hearing submissions for and against fluoridation, a report on future options for district water supplies sparked passionate debate, with six of the 11 members subsequently voting to cease fluoridating the Whakatane and Ohope supply and not extend fluoridation to other community water schemes.
Fluoride, in the form of hydrofluorosililic acid, has been added to the Whakatane and Ohope water supply since 1972, but no other community schemes have been fluoridated.
Mayor Tony Bonne said if fluoridation did have significant oral health benefits, without creating other health risks, its use should be a central Government decision.
"I don't think local councils should be making decisions like this and taking on the responsibility for any negative outcomes that may arise in the future," he said.
Mayor Bonne and Councillors George Johnston, Scott Jarrett, Dave Sheaff, Alison Silcock and Gerard van Beek voted for the recommendation to not add fluoride; with councillors Judy Turner, Julie Jukes, John Pullar, Russell Orr and Andrew Iles voting against the recommendation.
The committee has also called for a further report on the possibility of using the savings resulting from ceasing fluoridation, estimated at $3,500 a year for the Whakatane and Ohope supply, to promote dental health activities in District schools and preschools.
Submissions in favour of fluoridation were made by Dr Neil de Wet of Toi Te Ora Public Health and local dental practitioner John Twaddle, while Mary Byrne and Jon Burness of Fluoride-Free New Zealand spoke against the practice.
Dr de Wet's submission cited significant improvements in oral health and particularly in children, as a result of water supply fluoridation; support for the practice by reputable health organisations around the world; a lack of credible links to any adverse health effects; and support for fluoridation in local referenda in 1995 (54 percent in favour), 2001 (63 percent in favour) and 2013 (60.5 percent in favour).
Speaking against the practice, Ms Byrne submitted that only seven countries worldwide fluoridated the water supplied to more than half of their populations and that a number of developed countries had ceased fluoridating water supplies.
She also said no other Bay of Plenty councils and only 23 of the 67 New Zealand councils currently fluoridate their water supplies; that fluoridation is effective through topical contact rather than by ingestion; that fluoride is a recognised neurotoxin; and that no adverse oral health effects have been experienced in communities where fluoridation has ceased.