Western Bay of Plenty District council will push ahead with fluoridate plans despite a High Court ruling that the national directive was unlawful.
The preliminary High Court decision says then director-general of health Sir Ashley Bloomfield’s July 2022 fluoridation directive to Western Bay and 13 other councils failed to consider the Bill of Rights Act.
Mayor James Denyer said the judgment has not quashed the directive so the council would obey the law. Plans for the required infrastructure for fluoridation were still in place.
“Council is maintaining a watching brief on legal developments.”
The council failed to get an exemption from the directive to fluoridate two of its eight water supplies, all of which are not fluoridated.
The ministry issued a directive to fluoridate the Athenree and Wharawhara water supplies by July 31, 2025.
The water supplies cover Waih? Beach, Athenree, Tanners Point, Katikati and the reticulated rural area through to Morton Road.
At the time, Director-General of Health Dr Diana Sarfati said she was not able to grant an exemption.
“It would be inappropriate to revoke or amend the direction to fluoridate provided to Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
“The World Health Organization and other international health authorities have endorsed community water fluoridation as an effective health measure for the prevention of dental decay. Extensive research carried out around the world, including in Aotearoa New Zealand, has established that water fluoridation is safe and effective,” said Sarfati.
The council sought the exemption after public consultation from the annual plan showed the community had concerns about fluoridation. The councillors voted 10 in favour with two against.
Fluoride Free NZ members and supporters spoke in public forums at council meetings and community boards, urging the council to seek an injunction from the directive.
Councillor Anne Henry said she was happy with the High Court ruling.
“Give people the choice to take it [fluoride], don’t put it in our water.”
Henry says people had the option of taking fluoride tablets or using fluoride toothpaste.
Councillor Don Thwaites voted against seeking an exemption but says he was not strongly for or against fluoridation, and he supported staff to do what the law required.
“This recent judgment wasn’t about the health merits of fluoridation It was more of a procedural thing.”
Council director water services EJ Wentzel confirmed: “The judgement hasn’t quashed the direction to fluoridate, so we will continue to proceed unless instructed otherwise by the Ministry of Health.
“If we stop planning now, it will be difficult to meet the prescribed timelines.”
The cost of introducing fluoride to the Athenree supply would be $923,962 with the ongoing management and monitoring estimated to be $55,148 per annum.
For the Wharawhara supply the setup cost would be $938,587 with ongoing costs estimated at $55,193 each year.
The ministry would fund the cost of setting up the fluoridation infrastructure but not the ongoing costs.
The council faced fines if it did not comply.
Non-compliance could result in a fine up to $200,000 and, if the non-compliance is ongoing, there could be a fine of $10,000 a day.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson says the High Court decision relates to the process required to be used in deciding to issue a direction.
“The judgment is not about the public health merits of fluoridation, or whether fluoridation can be justified under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
“The court has not quashed the directions, and at this time the directions remain in force.”
*Original full-text article online at: https://sunlive.co.nz/news/331786-western-bop-pushes-ahead-with-water-fluoridation.html