The South Taranaki District Council has won a four-year court battle for the right to fluoridate the water supply in Waverley and Patea.
The case was brought against the council by New Health New Zealand Inc on the grounds that fluoride was a medicine, meaning members of the public had the right to refuse its use.
However, after New Health took the matter to the High Court and then appealed that court’s decision which ruled in favour of the council, the law has eventually ruled the council can put fluoride in the drinking water.
The court of appeal ruled that administering medical treatment meant treatment received therapeutically from a doctor or health professional, and that fluoride didn’t count as a medical treatment.
Water New Zealand’s chief executive John Pfahlert said common sense had prevailed in the end.
“It now means that after four years of costly legal delays, the council is able to extend fluoridation to residents who have not had the benefits of added fluoride,” he said.
Pfahlert said it was disappointing that lobby groups representing “an extreme position” were able to hold a small council to ransom.
“It would appear that opponents of fluoride deliberately targeted a small council,” he said.
“The benefits of fluoride protection for dental health are irrefutable and pose no health risks at the recommended level of 0.7 to 1.0 parts per million in drinking water.”
Pfahlert also said fluoridation was a decision that needed to be made by district health boards, not by district councils, something the Ministry of Health agreed with transferring the responsibility earlier this year.
According to Fluoride Free NZ 23 district councils in New Zealand have fluoride in the drinking water, however 37 councils have opted out, including New Plymouth.
Fluoride was taken out of New Plymouth’s water supply after a unanimous vote by the district council. However, Taranaki’s other district council – Stratford – still treats its water with the controversial chemical.