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No Excuses for Delay in Hamilton Water Fluoridation

Media Release

Date: 7 March 2014

No Excuses for Delay in Hamilton Water Fluoridation

There are no excuses now, Hamilton City Council should put fluoride back in the city’s water supply, says Waikato District Health Board (DHB) chief executive Craig Climo.

South Taranaki District Council’s decision to fluoridate Patea and Waverly’s water supplies stands and now Hamilton health professionals want their council to put fluoride back in their water – immediately.

Anti-fluoridation group New Health has failed in its challenge of South Taranaki District Council’s decision to fluoridate the town’s water supplies.

The High Court judgement was made today by Justice Rodney Hansen.

“It is the people in Hamilton who really need their water fluoridated, that have been most burdened by Hamilton City Council’s decision to remove it from the water here,” said Mr Climo.

“Community water fluoridation is one of the very few health interventions where the beneficiary of the service actually doesn’t need to do anything to enjoy the benefits.

“It comes at a very low cost and is of very clear health benefit. We shouldn’t lose those sorts of opportunities.”

On 10 December 2012, the South Taranaki District Council decided by a vote of 10-3 to add fluoride to the water supplies of Patea and Waverly, both small towns in South Taranaki.

The ‘New Health’ group challenged the decision on the grounds that the council didn’t have the grounds to add fluoride to its water supply for therapeutic reasons; adding fluoride for therapeutic purposes constitutes a breach of the right to refuse to undergo medical treatment; and in deciding to add fluoride to the water supplies, the council failed to take into account a number of mandatory relevant considerations.

Justice Hansen’s judgement result report states:

“I have rejected all grounds of challenge. I have concluded that there is implied power to fluoridate in the Local Government Act 2002 . . . the Health Act confirms that fluoride may be added to drinking water in accordance with drinking water standards issued under that Act.

“I have concluded that the fluoridation of water is not medical treatment . . . while I accept that fluoridation has a therapeutic purpose, I conclude that the means by which the purpose is effected does not constitute medical treatment.

“I am of the view that the council was not required to take into account the controversial factual issues relied on by New Health.

“The view of many public health authorities and medical science bodies, among them the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Dental Association, is that fluoridation is safe and beneficial.”

Waikato DHB medical officer of health Dr Anita Bell is just one health professional who is pleased with Justice Hansen’s ruling.

“It is the right decision, and now we can only hope that Hamilton City Council won’t delay in having our water fluoridated here in Hamilton again,” she said.

Justice Hansen said he was driven to the conclusion that the significant advantages of fluoridation clearly outweigh the only acknowledged drawback, the increased incidence of fluoridosis.

“I am satisfied that the power conferred on local authorities to fluoridate is a proportionate response to the scourge of dental decay, particularly in socially disadvantaged areas,” he said.

Water fluoridation is a 60-year-old practice in New Zealand and occurred for the first time here in Hastings in 1954.

Nearly 70 per cent of Hamilton voters voted for fluoride in last year’s Hamilton City Council referendum.

Currently 48 per cent of the New Zealand population live in communities with water fluoridation programmes.

ENDS

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