Wherever one sits in the fluoride debate in Hawke’s Bay (I brush with fluoride toothpaste and rainwater), our residents deserve better data from our health system.

So long as a firm one-third (36%, per 2013 referendum) of Hastings residents oppose the measure, it’s unacceptable for the underlying numbers on the state of local children’s tooth decay to be so mysterious.

Both sides are forced to use region-wide statistics to make their case, when the perfect conditions have existed for years here in HB for one side or the other to be proven wrong about actual effectiveness.

In Hastings, addition of fluoride to municipal drinking water was halted in 2016, when adding chlorine (the two are incompatible) took priority in the face of the Havelock North campylobacter crisis. One would think there is indeed eight years of relevant data to look at specifically with respect to children served by the Hastings District water system. Why isn’t that being done?

Meantime, Napier, CHB and Wairoa do not add fluoride to their drinking water. Again, it would seem that the perfect ‘lab conditions’ have existed for years to establish the benefits (or not) of the additive here in HB. Why hasn’t that been done?

Yes, there is regional, national and global information on the effectiveness (or not) of adding fluoride to drinking water. But none of this has the impact of transparent measuring in our own back yard.

Better local numbers on tooth decay will not end the debate, because opponents of fluoride will continue to make other claims about alleged health-harm and due process violations.

But, really, why can’t we at least get a true picture of what is happening to Hastings and Napier children?


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  1. Can’t agree with your comments re Flouride & Chlorine being incompatible as a reason for stopping fluoridation as many cities eg Auckland have been doing this for many years without issues.

  2. actually, Tom, if you look at the historic data that is available comparing children’s caries (decay) between Napier and Hastings from c.1950 on, there’s a significant (in statistical terms) 4% difference… with Napier the better-off. pro-fluoride lobbyists attempt to explain that by pointing to the ~0.3 ppm (from mem) greater natural fluoride in the Napier supply, but that doesn’t add up when the additional fluoride added into Hastings supply swings that figure the other way. at the very least, i’d say it shows there is NO impact difference… so why add it?

  3. City of Durham chlorinates and adds fluoride to the water supply.
    No chemical reason for the two to be incompatible.

    It could be argued that fluorination is a lesser risk than chlorination while still offering substantial health benefits.

  4. To Wallace and John,
    HDC has always claimed that they could not add both chemicals at the same time. Maybe for a reason unrelated to chemistry. We’ll inquire.

  5. The MOH says fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 40%. If true, decay rates should have risen dramatically in the first 6 years after Hastings stopped it. However: “Tooth decay in the formerly-fluoridated Hastings and Havelock North has continued to decline since fluoridation ceased in 2016, according to official School Dental Data says Dr Neil Waddell, former Professor of Dental Materials at the School of Dentistry, University of Otago.

    Dr Waddell, goes on to state that “It was declining at the same rate as the unfluoridated areas of the Hawke’s Bay before fluoridation ceased and has continued to decline at the same rate as those areas since fluoridation ceased. So why the hysteria about reintroducing it?” – https://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/official-govt-data-show-fluoridation-provided-no-benefit-to-hastings-or-havelock-north-children/5849/.

    As to the reason for stopping fluoridation, the HDC says “In 2016, fluoride had to be removed from Hastings’ main urban drinking water supply to enable Council to chlorinate in the wake of the Havelock North water crisis. Council’s system was only set up to enable the addition of one element and chlorine was crucial to keep our drinking water safe.” I assume switching chlorine for fluoride could be done quickly whereas it would take some time to install new dosing equipment.

  6. Just reading your piece about fluoride.

    While I was working for the Dom Post in Hastings, I got stats from the Min of Health re dental health of HB children.
    The stats showed that there was effectively no difference in dental health between unfluoridated Napier kids and fluoridated Hastings kids. Similar dental health. So other (social) factors had to be at play, eg quality of food, consumption of fizzy drinks instead of water, and dental hygiene.

    For Waipukurau and Waipawa – one of those areas was fluoridated and the other not (can’t remember which). The kids in the fluoridated area actually had worse dental health than those in the unfluoridated area. So again, social factors had to be playing a role.

    It does raise the question of how much use it is putting fluoride in water if kids don’t drink it, and don’t clean their teeth with it.

    And that’s not taking into account the objections of those who do not wish to drink fluoridated water. They might or might not use fluoridated toothpaste instead, depending on how they feel about fluoride per se.

    Kathy Webb

  7. Fluoridation of Hastings Water Supply is likely illegal, and definitely
    By Angela Hair, B Sc (Hons), Dip Hom, Adv Dip Hom.
    During the Hastings District Council’s 2010 Annual Plan deliberations, I submitted along with the then owner of Be Pure, Ben Warren, and Fluoride Action Network, to ask the Council to remove fluoride from Hastings water supply (including Havelock North, Clive, Flaxmere). The industrial waste product HFSA (fluoride) had been added to the water supply since 1954. The Council ignored our request, and opted for a referendum. The YES vote was heavily funded ($50,000) by Ministry of Health, the NO vote was funded ($6000) by donations from concerned citizens. Two thirds of voters believed the establishment rhetoric, but a third of voters, said NO.

    The gastro bug of 2016, when chlorine was added to the water instead of fluoride, achieved what we were unable to do. A water fountain was built by the library, and a steady stream of people use this facility to get fluoride and chlorine free water.

    Here we are in 2024, looking at the 10 Year Plan, and fluoridation has been returnedto the water supply despite research that shows it is not effective. You would think during those eight years of no fluoride in the water, the dental caries of children, aged 5 and 13 years in Hastings would have increased, if fluoride was the magic treatment that was making the difference.

    But in fact, Hawke’s Bay Dental Health data from 2015 vs 2022 shows an overall
    decrease in dental caries. Clearly this is not evidence of fluoride effectiveness. Other factors are influencing this reduction in dental caries. The health authorities could be investigating what has contributed to the improvement in children’s teeth, rather than forcing fluoridation back on a community that don’t want it and have not consented to this medical treatment.

    Why are they continuing to put fluoride in water when it is ineffective for caries but demonstrated to cause multiple other health problems like arthritis, thyroid failure, tumours, enzyme damage and lowered IQ? The Council needs to answer this important question. They have not answered this question in any public forum.

    In the past 10 years there has been a considerable increase in research looking at the neurotoxicity of fluoride. A two-week court case in USA (TSCA Trial 2023) was heard by a federal court judge in February 2024. Plaintiffs Michael Connett and Fluoride Action Network, and defence lawyers for the Environmental Protection Agency interviewed the researchers and argued the science. The ruling is imminent, and will influence fluoridation policy in USA and New Zealand.

    Back in New Zealand, in November last year The High Court heard initial arguments in the case New Health New Zealand vs Director General of Health, which established that former Director General Ashley Bloomfield did not take into consideration the Bill of Rights Act when making the fluoridation directive to 14 Councils in 2022. The High Court subsequently ruled that every decision-maker must undertake a BORA analysis prior to fluoridation.

    Therefore, it can be argued that Hastings District Council is acting unlawfully by making the decision to start fluoridation when neither the DGoH or the council has done this BORA analysis. The substantive case is still to be heard later in the year, when all aspects of fluoridation will be argued.

    As a result of this, last month Nelson District Council asked the Ministry of Health for leave to delay fluoridation until the legality of the directives are settled in court. Rotorua, Waitaki and Horowhenua Councils have followed suit and chosen to delay fluoridation until the case is settled, rather than risk expensive legal action.

    Hastings District Council has the same option to wait. Yet it decided to restart fluoridation on 8 April after a significant central government investment in its water system, and the claimed threat of a substantial fine if it doesn’t comply.

    At the Hastings new water treatment plant and visitor experience, you can see the fluoride and chlorine infrastructure that doses the water directly, and hear the sounds of recorded tuis singing in the trees, mist rising from hoses under the trees, a stream meandering through the garden. Our fluoride free visiting speakers were locked out of the visitor centre during our fluoride protest on 18 April. What were the Council afraid of? People speaking the truth?

    While MoH initially employed the carrot and the stick strategy, the threat of substantial fines is, at least for now, eased, as we have seen.

    This is why Fluoride Free Hastings is pushing back against the Hastings District Council with protests, a petition and an injunction in the High Court to be held on 16 May. This has been taken by NZ Doctors Speaking Out With Science and Fluoride Free New Zealand.

    It’s worth pointing out that the assumption that water fluoridation is effective has been internationally proven to be incorrect. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention conceded in 1999 that the predominant mechanism of fluoride action is topical, not systemic. If you want to have fluoride, use fluoridated toothpaste, don’t drink it!.

    And note too, the Hastings District Council and HB Regional Council make the assumption that the poisonous byproduct of the fertiliser industry (HFSA) is safe to pour down the drains into the environment, yet ignore the fact that 25 years ago, HB Regional Council banned Ravensdown from discharging the same substance into the river or ocean. Clearly a disconnect is happening here!

    The only safe way to proceed with fluoridation is to stop. Te Whatu Ora has a range of other options it could use to further reduce dental decay for the most vulnerable children in our communities. The most obvious and effective solution to help dental health and general health, is education about healthy food and essential nutrition.

  8. There is a new piece on fluoridation on the NZDSOS website which is worth reading.
    It is clear that we are being conned, once again, by the “safe and effective” propaganda.
    One of the most interesting points is the video link, an interview with Dr John Colquhoun [BDS, PhD] here . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8th-Bbb0LQ&t=4s

    Why, oh why do politicians and local body representatives actually do some research themselves.

    We need to stop Hastings DC adding fluoride.

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