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Fluoride in water may soon be required

2021 11 16

The Wairoa District Council may soon be required to fluoridate public drinking water supplies.

Last month, new legislation was passed by Government to amend the Health Act 1956 to give the Director-General of Health the power to direct local authorities to fluoridate water.

Locally, this would impact the Wairoa township, Frasertown, Tuai, Mahanga and rural supplies that are topped up with trucked town water. The changes do not apply to private drinking water supplies. 

When deciding whether to issue a direction to fluoridate, the Director-General of Health will be required to consider the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of adding fluoride to drinking water in reducing the prevalence and severity of dental decay and whether the benefits of adding fluoride to the drinking water outweigh the financial costs.

The new legislation exempts Council from any requirement to consult with the communities on the decision to fluoridate.

Wairoa has been advised the total capital cost to install fluoridation across the Wairoa district water treatment plants is $450,000. Some funding may be available to support these costs but any additional capital costs and the operational costs of around $15,000 a year have not been budgeted for in the LTP.

It is expected the Director-General of Health could start issuing directions regarding some community water supplies from mid-2022.

Mayor Craig Little said it is alarming that once again communities will not get a say into their water supply that they own and pay for. 

“This is just another example of localism being removed from our communities.

“This is more than a debate over fluoride in water. There may be some health benefits, particularly for our rangatahi, but don’t forget this is limited to those on a Council water supply, not those families who source their water from a non-Council supply.

“The Government has deliberately removed the ability for our communities and iwi to have a say, that is simply not democratic.

“The Government has passed a bill to make Councils add a mineral to the water everyone in our community drinks without allowing us to ask our community what they think. 

“What’s more, they are telling us to do something without providing all the funding to meet their new requirements and no funding to pay for the ongoing costs. This is exactly what has been happening with our country’s three waters assets for decades and is why we have a legacy of three waters under-investment creating problems across the country. 

“Directing our people without the ability for consultation and feedback is not the New Zealand I grew up in.”

6 December 2021

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