The Hamilton City Council could be the next local body to face court action if it opts to re-introduce fluoride into its water supply.
Councillors have the opportunity to draw a line under the city’s prolonged fluoride saga when they meet this afternoon to decide whether to fluoridate Hamilton’s water. But the chances of a decisive result look increasingly unlikely with anti-fluoride group New Health NZ yesterday filing a notice of appeal against a High Court decision upholding the South Taranaki District Council’s decision to fluoridate its water supplies.
In November, Hamilton city councillors voted 7-5 to defer a decision on whether to recommence fluoridating the city’s water until after the High Court decision was available. New Health NZ chairman David Sloan said the decision by Justice Hansen had “worrying implications” for all New Zealanders.
“The High Court ruling effectively enables councils to use the water supply to deliver chemicals for therapeutic purposes,” he said.
“Chemicals for the purpose of birth control, mood disorder and vaccination can be legally added to the water supply at the whim of local authorities,” Mr Sloan said.
Justice Hansen rejected all grounds of New Health NZ’s challenge, ruling there was “implied power” to fluoridate in the Local Government Act 2002. Meanwhile, a report by council staff said a decision on whether to recommence fluoridating Hamilton’s water supply carried the risk of a judicial review “due to the deeply divergent views expressed and evidence presented by affected and interested persons . . .”
“Council has received correspondence indicating the intention to initiate judicial review proceedings should council decide to recommence fluoridating the city water supply,” the report said.
Four options are effectively open to councillors today: Continue to not fluoridate; recommence fluoridating the city’s water; recommence fluoridating but provide an alternative source of water with no added fluoride; or continue not to fluoridate the city’s water but provide vouchers for free fluoride tablets for people with community service cards.
Council staff said recommencing fluoridating and providing a fluoride-free water source would not only be costly to implement “but it would be technically and operationally challenging”.
Providing an alternative source of water with no added fluoride is estimated to cost between $200,000 and $300,000. Councillors who spoke to the Waikato Times said they were “keeping an open mind” and had yet to come to a decision.
Councillor Martin Gallagher, who also is a member of the Waikato District Health Board, said he would meet with the city solicitor today to clarify advice on whether he could participate in the vote. A council staff report said Mr Gallagher and fellow board member, Councillor Ewan Wilson, would need to individually consider and decide if they could approach the decision-making process with an open mind.
Mr Wilson said he would participate in today’s meeting but had not decided how he would vote.
December 11, 2012: Hamilton City Council decides on a hearing to seek public feedback on whether to add fluoride to the city water supply.
March 1-April 2, 2013: A total of 1557 submissions received, with the majority (1385) seeking a stop to fluoridation. 170 support fluoridation.
May 28-30 and June 4, 2013: Submitters heard by council at a hearing.
June 5, 2013: Council votes 7-1 to stop adding fluoride to the city’s water supply. June 20, 2013: Fluoridation of Hamilton’s water supply stops.
July 12, 2013: Council agrees to hold a non-binding referendum on whether to fluoridate the city’s water.
October 12, 2013: Referendum results show 66.09 per cent (24,635) of voters want fluoride added to the water. 31.57 per cent (11,768) vote against fluoridation.
November 28, 2013: Council defers a decision until after the High Court has heard a legal challenge by anti-fluoride group New Health NZ against the South Taranaki District Council’s decision to fluoridate its water supplies.
March 7, 2014: Justice Hansen rejects all grounds of New Health NZ’s challenge and upholds South Taranaki District Council’s decision to fluoridate its water supplies.
March 26, 2014: New Health NZ files a notice of appeal in the Court of Appeal against Justice Hansen’s decision.
March 27, 2014: Hamilton City Council meets to decide whether to recommence fluoridating the city water supply.