Fluoride is due to make a return to Hastings drinking water from August, following a two year absence due to the Havelock North gastro outbreak.
Hawke’s Bay DHB was keen to see fluoride return to the supply and in a paper going before the board today staff said “community fluoridation remains an ongoing and serious concern as it has been absent from the Hastings District Council supply since August 2016 and no clear timeframe for its reinstatement has been announced by Hastings District Council”.
It said “Reinstatement is a high priority for Maori and Pacific oral health”.
Hastings was the first place in New Zealand to have fluoride added to its urban water as a means of preventing tooth decay, in 1954, but the water supply has been fluoride-free since the Havelock North gastro-outbreak.
After campylobacter was found in the town water supply the council began chlorinating the water. The dosing system that had been used for fluoride was used for chlorine instead.
A council spokeswoman said chlorine had been a priority following the outbreak, but fluoride would soon be added as well.
“We can advise that the Wilson Road treatment plant will be commissioned in August, with fluoride able to be added to that supply from then. The further two treatment plants supplying the bulk of the urban areas are expected to be commissioned within two to three years, with the smaller rural treatment plants being commissioned between years one and five,” she said.
Napier does not have fluoride in its drinking water. It was removed from the water supply in Central Hawke’s Bay in 2012.
Three years after fluoridation began in Hastings in 1954, a Commission of Inquiry was held and water fluoridation use rapidly expanded in the mid-1960s. About half New Zealand’s population now receives fluoridated drinking water.
The decision to add fluoride to water is currently made by district councils, but the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill currently making its way through Parliament would give DHBs the authority to decide if any local government water supplies needed to be fluoridated and direct local councils to do so. The Bill went through its first reading and select committee stages last year and is due to have its second reading.
The paper going before the board said it was appropriate to wait until the outcome of the Bill was clear before making water recommendations for community water fluoridation in Hawke’s Bay.