Local government welcomes Government’s decision on fluoridation

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) welcomes the Government’s decision to transfer decision-making about the fluoridation of drinking water supplies to District Health Boards (DHBs).

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule is pleased to see the Government has acknowledged that fluoridation is an important health decision and one best made by health experts.

“The decision to fluoridate is a health decision. Assessing claims about the value of fluoride and its potential harm falls outside the expertise and experience of local authorities,” says Mr Yule.

LGNZ says fluoridation issues have always been strongly divisive in communities and as a result, councils have been forced to make judgements about the validity, or otherwise, of complex scientific research.

“In recent years, many councils have had their decisions to fluoridate water supplies challenged in Court, creating unnecessary costs for ratepayers and uncertainty for the councils themselves,” says Mr Yule.

“The decision removes the costs and risks of litigation for ratepayers and councils, and ensures that future fluoridation decisions will be based on medical evidence of the benefits,” says Mr Yule.

LGNZ acknowledges the decision as an important step in the right direction for fluoridation policy. The issue was of such concern to members that the 2014 LGNZ conference passed a remit asking that the Government amend the Health Act so that the addition of fluoride to drinking water supplies is made by the Director General of Health rather than councils, as has historically been the case.

We are comfortable with the Government’s decision to transfer the responsibility to DHBs. This will still allow democratic input into the fluoridation decision, as the Boards are composed of both elected and appointed representatives.

“Unlike councils, DHBs have access to the necessary level of medical expertise through which to make informed judgements on whether fluoride should be added to drinking water, taking into account local health priorities and most importantly local health related information and evidence,” says Mr Yule.