Fluoridation of Hastings’ main urban water supply could be re-established before the new year says Hastings District Council Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.
Hazlehurst’s comments follow a ruling by the High Court, which determined orders to add fluoride to more than a dozen drinking water supplies, given by then Director-General of Health Sir Ashley Bloomfield, as unlawful.
In July 2022, Bloomfield directed 14 councils to fluoridate some or all of the drinking water supplies. With more to follow.
RNZ reported the preliminary High Court decision released on Friday, November 10, ruled those orders contained a procedural error. Namely, Bloomfield did not give specific consideration to the Bill of Rights Act in making them.
It means the fluoridation orders could be set aside or returned to the Ministry of Health for reconsideration before a substantive hearing on the broader issue next year.
The 14 councils were given a deadline to start fluoridating and would be subject to hefty fines should they fail to comply.
Hastings District Council was the only council in Hawke’s Bay included on the list.
Hazlehurst told BayBuzz the Council paused adding fluoride to the main urban water supply in 2016 following the Havelock North water contamination event.
“That was to allow us to add chlorine for water safety – we were at that point unable to add both fluoride and chlorine,” she said.
“Since then we have been working on the infrastructure necessary for the longer-term, and among other improvements that will enable us to add both fluoride and chlorine to the supply.
“The addition of fluoride will resume as soon as the infrastructure enables it, and that is expected to be before the end of 2023.”
She said the High Court decision didn’t make a difference in whether the Council resumed fluoridating the water supply.
“In terms of the recent High Court matter, New Health New Zealand Inc v Director-General of Health, and in particular the judgment on November 10, 2023, we note that the High Court has not cancelled or put aside the order made by the Director-General of Health,” she said.
“That order is still afoot, has the same force it did before the recent High Court judgment, and requires us to re-establish fluoridation of the water supply. The order by the Director-General of Health only reinforces what was our intention anyway.”
Historically, the fluoride issue has been contentious in Hastings. In October 2013, Hastings ratepayers voted over 2 to 1 in a referendum to keep fluoride in the community’s water supply,
Hastings District Council has provided a fluoride-free supply point for those who wish to access it, and will continue to do so, said Mayor Hazlehurst.
Wairoa District Council Mayor Craig Little told BayBuzz that Wairoa District Council estimated the cost for fluoridation of the Wairoa township supply, being the only supply that supplied more than 500 people, would be more than $250,000.
“This cost has not been budgeted for and is something Council would expect external funding for, as our community cannot afford to fluoridate the Wairoa township supply,” he said.
“Any directives, decisions or considerations around fluoridating the Wairoa water supply will be communicated with the community.”
Little added Wairoa District Council had not been directed to fluoridate its drinking water supply.
“Wairoa District Council has received correspondence from the Ministry of Health (MoH), which encouraged local authorities with un-fluoridated community water supplies that service more than 500 people to start fluoridation-related preparatory work,” he said.
“The letter indicated MoH would expect to consider issuing directions to fluoridate and would take a staged approach and aligned with the significant reforms to the Three Waters.
“The Ministry was also seeking information on the fluoridation ‘readiness’ of local authorities and any cost and planning pressures they face.”
A spokesperson for Central Hawke’s Bay District Council said Central Hawke’s Bay did not currently fluoridate its water. “At this point, the legislation in its current form places any decisions relating to fluoridation with the Ministry of Health, not local Councils.”
Napier City Council Mayor Kirsten Wise said the Council had no plans to introduce fluoride to the city’s drinking water supply and was not mandated by Ministry of Health to implement fluoridation.
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