Supporters of a fluoride referendum which could overturn Hamilton City's controversial decision to stop dosing its water may yet get their way.
As last-minute political wrangling and legal advice continued last night, a key fluoride opponent on Hamilton City Council said he believed a majority was now prepared to hold a referendum, although the timing was still contentious.
A petition calling for a citizens' initiated referendum has easily met the 1500 enrolled city voters needed to force a debate, city council staff confirmed yesterday after cross-checking signatures with the current electoral roll.
The full city council will consider the petition when it meets today, although two absences could yet see any decision deferred until all councillors are present.
But city councillor and fluoridation opponent Dave Macpherson scotched fears from petition organiser Ewan Wilson that councillors will stonewall it, and accused him of bungling his efforts to win a majority of council support.
Mr Wilson, a Waikato DHB member and city councillor told the Waikato Times he does not expect his political colleagues to support anything more than a discussion, with council staff and lawyers advising yesterday that options beyond that needed wider support from elected members to advance further.
Because the council voted last year not to hold a referendum on fluoridation, there is a higher threshold for the council to overturn or rescind its decision.
Mr Macpherson said that Mr Wilson had erred by not working with the other councillors, instead instigating the petition himself in the wake of a Times poll which showed Hamiltonians strongly favour fluoride, by a two-to-one margin.
He had earlier failed to win enough councillors' signatures to force a debate.
"If he had approached us he probably would have got the signatures he needed. He refused to do that, he pissed everybody off, and he didn't get anywhere."
Mr Macpherson said the matter may be deferred until next week, still in time if council chose to hold a referendum at the same time as October's elections.
"I think there's a majority of councillors - possibly up to eight - who would vote for some form of referendum. The timing is one issue," said Mr Macpherson.
However the council is clearly divided on holding a referendum, with Mayor Julie Hardaker saying that if the public wanted one badly enough they needed to get the required signatures - 10 per cent of electors, about 10,000 voters, to force the city council to hold a referendum under its own referenda policy.
She did not accept a majority of Hamilton residents wanted fluoridated water.
"My concern is the risk of going around and around in circles on this. We chose a process as a council, and it gave both sides a chance to put their case."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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