Fluoride Free Hastings supporters gathered at the Hastings District Council on Thursday. Photo: Hamish Bidwell

“Absolutely they’ve been blackmailed. Totally.’’

That’s the view of Fluoride Free Hastings spokesperson Angela Hair, following the Hastings District Council’s (HDC) announcement that it will add fluoride into its main urban drinking water supply.

The council confirmed on April 2 that fluoride would return to drinking water, following an eight-year hiatus. “It has always been council’s intention to reintroduce fluoride, alongside chlorine, once our new water storage and treatment facilities were completed,’’ Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said in a media release. “This has since been reinforced by a clear directive from the Ministry of Health to resume fluoridation.”

A group of around 200 Fluoride Free Hastings supporters delivered a petition to HDC on Thursday, asking that it reconsider – or at least delay – the reintroduction of fluoride.

Unfortunately, even Hair concedes that HDC’s hands are tied. “They are scared of the $200,000 fine that the Ministry of Health has imposed on them. So it’s $200,000 plus $10,000 a day for every day that they don’t fluoridate,’’ said Hair.

That figure was confirmed by HDC, who directed BayBuzz to the High Court ruling of November 2023 which reiterated that 14 councils – including HDC – must add fluoride to their water supplies. The original diktat came from then-Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield in July 2022.

The recent High Court judgement doesn’t leave a lot of wriggle room for councils such as HDC or lobby groups like Fluoride Free Hawke’s Bay.

“A local authority that receives a direction from the Director-General under s 116E is not required to consult on any matter related to the direction,’’ the High Court judgement said.

“Furthermore, a local authority must comply with a direction from the Director-General under s 116E and, in the event that it does not, it commits an offence of a strict liability nature and is liable to a fine of up to $200,000 and to a further fine of up to $10,000 for every day during which the non-compliance continues.

Accordingly, a decision of the Director-General requiring a local authority to add fluoride is not something that is subject to local discussion, or that a local authority can resist. 

Nevertheless, Hair says other councils in New Zealand have sought an extension of their deadline to resume fluoridation and is urging HDC to do the same.

“So, we’ve asked them, don’t give in to blackmail. Stand up for us,” Hair said. “Every step they take, we counter with a visit or a letter or a something, just to keep the pressure up.

They’re respectful and we’re respectful and we’ve been very careful not to be disrespectful.’’

The latest counter move was Thursday’s protest, to coincide with the scheduled meeting of council. Hair says the next one will, hopefully, be a presentation by Fluoride Free Hastings to May’s council meeting.

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ On Air


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  1. I cannot imagine how this group of protesters are moving to jeopardise everyone and everyones’ children the advantages of fluoridation. At recommended dose rates, growing teeth are protected from dental cavities. As someone who has paid too much for continuing dental failures I wish I’d had fluoride as a child as so my siblings.

  2. You neglect vary glaringly to mention what the High Court ruled in November. That the Director-General of Health made an error of law by not giving adequate consideration to the Bill of Rights in issuing the directions. While the High Court did not set aside the directions, further proceedings are underway to determine the implications. This is why so many councils are waiting to fluoridate. Fluoridation may well be illegal while neither the DGoH or the council has done this BORA analysis. You also completely neglect to mention the injunction by NZDSOS and Fluoride Free NZ on Hastings fluoridation, filed on April 9 with a hearing set for May. In fact many fairly high profile people involved in the legal action were at this protest, but your reporter did not interview them? Only one? With trust in media at an all time low, it’s easy to see why – this report simply doesn’t bother to mention these important facts, important to everyday common people. And your email headline calls any fight against fluoride ‘futile’. So Bay Buzz rages against pollution of our environment on the one hand when it comes to farming but is sop for authority and the pollution of our precious awa on the other. FTW?! This stuff lowers the IQ of children, this is a fact. But Bay Buzz is missing in action ….

  3. BayBuzz please also report the high court injunction against HDC taken by NZ Fluoride Free and NZDSOS, to be heard in Wellington 16 May. The Council does have a choice – it could stand up against the directive, and ask for an extension until 31/12/24. Nelson City Council has been granted this extension by Ministry of Health. This will allow the Bill of Rights Act to be considered as directed by high court. This will allow time to hear the consideration on the neurotoxicity of Fluoride. This TSCA trial was heard in February 2024 and we await the ruling from Supreme Court Judge Edward Chan. The Ministry of Health has a responsibility to tell the truth about the harm fluoride does to our babies, children and elderly. Fluoride put in the water is a S7 poison – read the Orica safety sheet – « Eco toxic – do not dispose in water » Please give me an Opinion piece so I can explain the situation in Hastings. Thankyou

  4. The evidence from the recent US-government NTP report shows that fluoride really is a big problem. That is clear now. It’s 1500-pages of damning scientific evidence printed under a US government department masthead. This is the real reason why these people are protesting, yet there is no mention of it in this story. Is this really the level of inquiry our media are capable of, to dismiss even official forms of communication now, simply because it doesn’t fit with the official line? The NTP report clearly shows fluoride damages children’s brains. Is defending fluoride really so important that we can’t even discuss those findings? Please watch “Fluoride on the Brain” where you’ll find both sides of this debate and make your own mind up. https://youtu.be/k5WwNKP0WRI?si=mUkv5HzTCb3_yFZt

  5. I would like to know if the dentists who are calling for fluoride to go in our water have actually kept statistics of dental decay for the last eight years. That would have been a perfect time to assess whether or not the absence of fluoride had compromised the decay levels.

  6. The ministry of health has a lot to answer for in NZ. THEY should rename to the Ministry of Poisons and Harm. I’m so disgusted with these decisions. THEY withheld real medication during covid. THEY are still pushing the clot shots. THEY are withholding clot shot information from the people and now THEY’RE poisoning our water.
    What we really need is accountability and justice NOW.

  7. Do the advocates of fluoride-free water not realise that they are potentially consigning their families to a life long danger of excess dental decay and pain along with the associated expense of treatment? In NZ and overseas the fluoridation of drinking water has been shown to markedly improve community dental health.
    NZ water supplies are generally low in natural fluoride so supplementation to effective levels is needed. Concerns over problems of fluoride exposure miss the point that issues only occur at very high levels, far above the quantities used in drinking water.
    In a 2013 referendum held in conjunction with local body elections 63% of voters were in favour of fluoridation-a sizeable majority to me. Do we have here a vocal minority attempting to impose their view on the whole community?
    A solution is available to those wishing for fluoride free water. Install a filter on their household taps and take the chance of a cavity filled future.

  8. Well done .why should we live under dictatorship rules.our forefathers fought for freedom of choice.Hitler promoted compulsory Mas medication and now the ministry of health is practicing it.The previous govt was unseated because of these traits but it is still proceeding.what a waiste of time the election was.

  9. The $200,000 and $10,000 per day fines are not imposed by the MOH but by a judge following a prosecution for failure to obey a directive. Moreover they are the maximum fines. Is possible a judge could find a council guilty and fine it $1. The judge did not rule that councils had to fluoridate. In the section of the judgement quoted in the article the judge was explaining what the Health Act says in order to explain what the court case was about. In his actual ruling he found the directives unlawful because the Director General of Health did not “turn is mind ” to the Bill of Rights Act. It was his duty to explain for each directive why he thought fluoridation was a justified exception to the right to refuse medical treatment, and he did not do this. The judge suggested topics that needed to be addressed, separately for each community, included “bodily integrity, informed consent, democratic principles, efficacy and safety of fluoridation, the precautionary principle and alternative measures.” So far this has not been done.

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