Fluoride Action Network

Fluoridation: Dirty Politics in New Zealand

FAN Bulletin | December 28, 2013

Dear Supporter,

Before we get to Mary Byrne’s annual report from New Zealand, here is an update on our fundraiser.

Yesterday we raised a total of $1,279 from 18 supporters. This was doubled by a generous matching grant to bring our current total to $92,878 from 503 donors. We have still a long way to go to reach our ambitious total of $120,000 from 600 donors by midnight Dec 31. However we still have just over $2,500 left in our matching grant (each dollar donated is doubled up to that amount) AND we have another challenge to encourage more people to join in this effort.

The new challenge: one of our angels will give us $1000 if we can reach 600 donors by Sunday midnight. That is not going to be easy, as the best we have done in one day during this Fundraiser was 48 donations.

A new premium. To make things even more interesting we will be offering a new premium in tomorrow’s bulletin. By now I am sure you all know that fluoridation is a “House of cards waiting to fall,” tomorrow we will be offering you a way you can be part of that “fall” and have fun doing it.  So don’t forget to open your bulletin tomorrow to hear about this surprise premium!

If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation you can either:

  • Donate by sending a check – payable to Fluoride Action Network – to: FAN, 104 Walnut Street, Binghamton, NY 13905.  But please email us at pconnett@gmail.comto make sure that your donation is counted in our total BEFORE the Dec. 31 midnight target time.  The mail can be slow!

Now over to Mary Byrne’s account of FAN-NZ’s hectic and heroic efforts in 2013. Two days ago we brought to you the shocking details of the scandalous “smoking gun” letter and fraudulent “study” that launched fluoridation in NZ in 1964. From what Mary writes the proponents of fluoridation are still using some very questionable and nasty tactics with the help of a one-sided media and government officials.

Paul Connett,


Fluoride Action Network.

Summary report from New Zealand for 2013
By Mary Byrne, FAN-NZ

Before I get started I would just like to say thank you for all the support we have received through Fluoride Action Network (FAN).  Our request for financial help with this year’s referenda battles resulted in donations totaling $3,137 from 25 people overseas.  We really appreciated those donations, as we know you are all fighting your own battles so it was very generous of you to help us here as well.

We are also really grateful to Professor Paul Connett for visiting us and giving talks. His talks have probably been the single most effective thing we have done to generate interest and activity throughout NZ.  FAN also helped to pay the airfare of Dr. Andrew Harms, former President of the South Australian Dental Association, to fly to NZ to testify on behalf of fluoridation opponents at the successful Hamilton tribunal – successful that is until the pro-fluoridation PR machine went into action (see below).

Luckily, for us Paul and Ellen will be back here in early February to help us keep up the momentum that has been building here despite the fact that we lost three referenda this year. In fact, the huge effort by the fluoridation promoters to turn around the Hamilton council’s decision to end fluoridation may well backfire for them in the long run.

The Hamilton city councillors decision to end fluoridation propelled fluoridation into the national arena and, regardless of comments from the fluoridationists, it has legitimized the issue and the Ministry of Health is now feeling very threatened. They know that when we get an opportunity to have the whole issue aired on a level playing field people go against fluoridation.

Efforts to get mandatory fluoridation in NZ

Fluoridation promoters are trying to get the decision for fluoridation made by the central government rather than local government.  A recent Health Select Committee report has heeded those calls and proposed the decision be moved to the District Health Boards (DHBs). This would effectively mean mandatory fluoridation as the DHBs are contracted to promote Ministry of Health policy and are not required to consult with the community.  Disturbingly, the Health Select Committee included the Health spokesperson for the Green party and the Health spokesperson for the Labour party as well as some of the current government (National party) MPs.  While these individuals have strong pro-fluoridation beliefs, there are many MPs in all parties that oppose fluoridation. The NZ Greens are ostensibly neutral, as they cannot reach consensus on fluoridation, even though Greens in UK and Canada are strongly opposed.

The political scene

Labour and Greens are the opposition parties, which may well make up a coalition government at next year’s election.  The ruling National party is at this point steadfast in maintaining the decision should be made by local councils. The only parties to be openly opposed to fluoridation are the Conservative party and Democrats for Social Credit.

While we have lost a few battles this year in NZ, we are winning the war because the antics of the proponents of fluoridation have made this into a national issue. Because of this, more and more people here are learning the truth and it is only a matter of time before that truth forces an end to this outdated practice. New Zealand has been known in the past to have the courage to buck the tide on both national and international affairs. We are looking forward to another busy year with:

1) Paul Connett’s visit in early February;

2) The High Court ruling sometime early in the New Year, and

3) A review of fluoridation from at least one council.

So watch this space. Meanwhile, here are some more details on some of this year’s events

The great victory in Hamilton

Fluoridation opponents in New Zealand achieved a great victory June 5 when councillors of Hamilton City Council after a 4-day tribunal where they heard testimony from both proponents and opponents of fluoridation (Fluoridation Tribunal) voted 7 to 1 to stop fluoridation. Fluoridation was actually stopped there on 21 June.

But after the vote the pro-fluoridation lobby went into full gear.  They whipped up the kind of frenzy in the media that we have seen in other places around the world (Pinellas County, Florida; Brooksville, Florida; Portland, Oregon and Lismore, Australia). This was all aimed at intimidating the councillors in Hamilton, as well as sending a clear message to other councils around the country. Don’t do the right thing (i.e. end fluoridaiton) or you will get lambasted in the media – both local and national.

Councillors ridiculed locally and nationally

The Hamilton council members were not only chastised and ridiculed for being anti-science in a series of very personal attacks by the rabidly pro-fluoridation Waikato Times but they also received attacks at the national level. Both they and FAN-NZ received unfounded and scathing remarks from two Government Ministers, Judith Collins and Tony Ryall.  They accused the councillors of being “gutless” and FAN-NZ and other opponents of misrepresenting the science on fluoridation.

Both FAN NZ and the council were very angry about the Ministers’ comments and used the official Information Act in an attempt to force them to justify their claims. But Minister Collins sidestepped the Information Act request by claiming her comment was made as an MP, not as Minister of Justice. MPs’ comments are not subject to the Act, Ministers are. This was the height of hypocrisy.

Minister Ryall also ducked justifying his comments by forwarding the request for information to Ministry of Health, even though his accusations were personal. The fact that Minister Ryall referred to the Ministry of Health suggests that he may have been misled by his own civil servants into making these false accusations.

FAN-NZ’s media release

FAN-NZ issued a media release stating that it was “totally unacceptable in a free democracy that Ministers should try to silence people and intimidate local government by bullying those who say something they or their Ministry disagrees with.”

We further argued that Ministers Collins and Ryall should be promoting open transparent scientific discussion at a national level instead of stooping to name-calling and the kind of ridicule that is intended to quash dissent.”

But all to no avail. The Ministers comments were splashed all over the media and even made it onto National TV. So…

The victory in Hamilton was short-lived

Just a week after the council’s decision, fluoridation proponent Councillor Ewan Wilson, who is also a member of the Waikato District Health Board (WDHB), pushed for a referendum saying Hamilton’s ratepayers should make the final decision on whether to keep fluoride in their water. Councillor Wilson’s initiative resulted in 2,500 signatures being collected (1,000 more than required). This forced the full council to vote on whether to hold a referendum on the issue.

A violation in the process

On July 4, the full council voted 7 to 6 in favour of holding a referendum. However, this decision controversially included the votes of Cllr Wilson and two other DHB members – Cllrs Martin Gallagher and Pippa Mahood, who previously had excluded themselves on this issue in accordance with conflict of interest rules in the Crown Entities Act 2004. Cllrs Wilson, Gallagher and Mahood exploited a loophole and were allowed to vote on whether to hold a referendum as this vote was considered by Hamilton Council’s lawyer’s to be about process rather than about fluoridation per se.

If the Council’s Fluoridation Tribunal had voted to continue fluoridation, would Cllr Wilson have called for a referendum? We doubt it.

We lose the referendum

The referendum was conducted by post between 20 September and 12 October in conjunction with local elections. With the great help of the Waikato Times the proponents won the referendum by 68 to 34%.

So while the Council had given the issue a full and balanced hearing over four days and voted 7 to 1 to end fluoridation, the situation was reversed by a public vote, which was heavily influenced by a combination of one-sided media coverage and ill-founded and unfair comments from two Government ministers.

But the fluoridation tap has not been turned back on yet!

Following the referendum result, a full meeting of Hamilton Council on 28 November considered the issue and voted 7 to 6 to defer a decision on whether to restart fluoridation until after the outcome of a judicial review of South Taranaki District Council’s (STDC’s) December 2012 decision to add fluoride to Patea and Waverley’s water supplies.

Another violation?

Cllr Wilson voted on this decision even though he was advised not to by Hamilton Council’s lawyers. Wilson claimed he was eligible because he was “open-minded” on the issue. Members of the public at this meeting couldn’t help but start laughing. The term ‘open-minded’ does not appear in the 2004 Act.

Judicial review in New Plymouth

The STDC Judicial Review took place from 25 to 26 November in New Plymouth and on the final day Justice Hansen reserved his decision. This is expected early in the New Year. The case was brought to court by New Health New Zealand (NHNZ), a natural health advocacy group. NHNZ’s lawyers claimed local councils are breaking the law and breaching human rights by fluoridating water supplies.

More violations trigger judicial review in Kapiti Coast

Kapiti Coast District Council is also facing a judicial review over its 2010 decision to retain water fluoridation (Kapiti is near the capital Wellington).  Kapiti Coast resident, Mike Woods, lodged a Judicial Review with the High Court in Wellington on 29 October. The legal challenge is to Kapiti Council’s decision to allow a councillor with a conflict of interest to vote. The 2010 vote was split 5 to 5.  If one vote is declared invalid, the vote will retrospectively be reduced to 4 councillors in favor of retaining fluoridation and 5 opposed and will immediately end the practice in Kapiti Coast.  The excitement mounts!

The outcome of this Kapiti judicial review, expected towards the end of February, may have implications for Hamilton Council in relation to its joint council/WDHB members latterly refusing to exclude themselves from council decisions on fluoridation due to conflicts of interest.

Fluoridation is, of course, NZ’s Ministry of Health official policy but it is now being challenged in many jurisdictions.

Fluoridation promoters have historically opposed referenda and in New Zealand this was reflected in a 2000 ESR Report1 recommendation that councils consider tribunals, which can involve taking submissions from professionals and lay people from near and far.

Councils can choose a referendum instead of a tribunal and this has happened.

A mixed record in NZ

Overall in recent years we have been winning. There are only 67 councils in NZ and currently only 22 have any fluoridation.

Since 2009, opponents have put fluoridation on the agendas of nine councils.

Councils took the decision to stop fluoridation in Central Hawke’s Bay, Taumarunui, New Plymouth and Hamilton.

Hastings, Whakatane and Far North chose referenda. The citizens in Far North voted to stop, butHastings (binding) and Whakatane (non-binding) voted to continue fluoridation. It is likely that Hastings will continue with fluoridation but it is less certain in Whakatane where a sizeable 40% of people voted to stop.

New Plymouth, like Hamilton, held a Tribunal Hearing where the council chose to stop.

Central Hawke’s Bay and Taumarunui invited public consultation through their draft annual plan and councillors subsequently voted to stop. Lower Hutt commissioned a council report on fluoridation but a voted 8 to 5 not to hold a referendum.

Meanwhile, Kapiti Coast and Hastings District Councils lowered their fluoride levels to 0.7 ppm in 2010 despite the Ministry of Health advising them not to.

Dunedin City Council reduced its fluoride level to 0.75 ppm following the draft annual plan process this year during which Paul Connett put the case against fluoridation while the Dunedin Dental School and the local DHB produced their usual propaganda.

Fluoridation opponents gearing up for more battles in 2014

This year’s referenda results will make things a bit more challenging. In Kapiti, despite the legal challenge (or perhaps because of it), fluoridation is already on the Kapiti Council’s agenda. Meanwhile, the campaign against fluoridation will continue across the country until Fluoridation is stopped completely.

Thanks again to all those outside NZ who have wished us well. When any one of us wins we all win.  Just as we were inspired by the decision to end mandatory fluoridation in Israel we hope to continue inspiring communities everywhere with our victories.  Go FAN Go!


1) Council decision-making in relation to fluoridation of public drinking water supplies, Ann Winstanley, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (“ESR”) for the NZ Ministry of Health, September 2002.

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