Fluoride Action Network

Anti-fluoride group loses court challenge (New Zealand)

Stuff NZ | September 16 | By Erin Gourley
Posted on September 16th, 2022
Location: New Zealand

The High Court has thrown out a challenge attempting to stop water fluoridation in Wellington.

The group New Health Ltd challenged the decision to reintroduce fluoride into the water supply, bringing a judicial review case against Wellington Water, Wellington City Council, and Hutt City Council. They asked the court for interim orders to stop fluoride being reintroduced to the water supply until their case was heard in full.

Fluoride was absent from Wellington, Upper Hutt, and Porirua’s water supplies for about a year after a failure by water supplier Wellington Water.

That failure gave the applicant, New Health New Zealand Ltd, an opening to argue that the councils did not need to reintroduce fluoride into the water supply.

* No fluoride in Wellington’s water for more than a month
* Bloomfield will order some water supplies to be fluoridated from mid-2022.
* What is water fluoridation and how does it work?

Now fluoridation of water is in the hands of the Director General of Health, the polarising issue is back in the news, and debate may be coming to an end. (First published March 2021)

A new law makes continued fluoridation compulsory for councils who already fluoridate their water supply.

Lawyer for New Health Tiho Mijatov argued that because of the failure by Wellington Water, fluoride had not been added to the water supply in a consistent way for several years. The councils and Wellington Water did not have an obligation to continue adding it.

Justice Francis Cooke found that although it was true there were periods where no fluoride was added at two water treatment plants, stopping fluoridation altogether was clearly contrary to the new law.

“The purpose of (the new law) is to prevent local authorities discontinuing with fluoridation. Yet that is precisely what the applicant seeks to achieve by this judicial review proceeding.”

One of the new fluoride facilities for Wellington, currently being tested to get optimum levels of fluoride in the water. (File photo)
One of the new fluoride facilities for Wellington, currently being tested to get optimum levels of fluoride in the water. (File photo)

New Health asked the court to make an order to stop further steps being taken to add fluoride to the water pending a full hearing of its case. Inexpensive fluoride tablets were available at pharmacies for those that wanted them, he said.

But just days before the hearing, the water treatment plants started reaching optimal levels of fluoridation again, argued Andrew Butler, the lawyer opposing New Health’s application for review.

The councils wanted fluoride back in the water once they were aware of the failure, he told the court. They never made a decision to stop fluoridation. Fluoridation had stopped only while two of the four plants that added fluoride were repaired, Butler said.

The judge found that fluoride has been added to the water supply in Wellington since the 1960s and operational failures did not mean the councils should stop.

“The argument that the operational failures mean that interim relief is now appropriate pending the substantive challenge is at best opportunistic, and also somewhat artificial given that full fluoridation has largely been restored,” he found.

Te M?rua water treatment plant in Upper Hutt, where fluoride is added. (File photo)
Te M?rua water treatment plant in Upper Hutt, where fluoride is added. (File photo)

New Health has previously challenged council decisions to fluoridate water, taking one case all the way to the Supreme Court. They lost their case, with the court finding councils were legally empowered to fluoridate water, which was a justified limitation on the right to refuse medical treatment.

That case was mentioned in the judgment, with the judge noting New Health’s “views have been heard and already dismissed at all levels. In any event there is now legislation that prevents local authorities from discontinuing fluoridation.”

Earlier in the year director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield directed 14 further councils to add fluoride to their water supplies under the new law.

*Original full-text article online at: https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington/129913757/antifluoride-group-loses-court-challenge