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Fluoride in Ōamaru water by end of June

Waitaki App

Ashley Smyth

11 June 2024, 3:35 AM

Fluoride in Ōamaru water by end of JuneImage: Pixabay/Henryk Niestrój

“Horrified” and “scared” is how one man is feeling after the announcement that Ōamaru’s water supply must be fluoridated by June 30, as instructed by the Director-General of Health.

Letters from both Waitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley, and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, requesting an extension on the deadline, have fallen on deaf ears.

Waitaki District Council was one of 14 councils directed in 2022, by then Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield to fluoridate its main water supply. 

In November last year, the High Court ruled this directive unlawful, citing the Bill of Rights Act which states a person has the right to refuse medical treatment.

There has been strong opposition locally to the proposal, and the announcement today (Tuesday) that it will go ahead, quickly generated an angry response on social media, with talks of a protest at the site where the fluoride would be added. 

Both Mr Parmley and Mr Kircher cited strong community opposition to the move, in their letters to the Director General of Health Diana Safarti.

Mr Parmley said although preparations had been carried out to flouridate the water in accordance with the directive, council had concerns with the legal position around the decision.

Mr Kircher requested that local communities be given the right to choose whether fluoride is added to their water.

“In the spirit of local decision making.”

The letters were a result of a decision made at a Waitaki District Council meeting on April 23, where councillors voted for Mr Parmley to request an extension of the June 30 deadline, from the Department of Health.

Mr Kircher’s letter also suggested, that as the decision-maker around fluoridation, it was the Health Ministry’s responsibility to ensure information about fluoridation is provided to communities.

“If the status quo is to be retained, with the decision to be made by the DG of Health, then that responsibility of information should be carried out by the Ministry of Health,” he wrote.

In a response received by the council from Dr Sarfati, last week, she cited the High Court decision of February 16 and a subsequent decision on May 24 as legal basis for not granting extensions for the fluoridation directive.

She also noted that a 2021 amendment by Parliament, to add Part 5A to the Health Act 1956, empowers her role with directing councils to fluoridate, and that councils must comply.

The High Court decision on 24 May confirmed current directions are valid, and that councils have a statutory duty of mandatory compliance.

“Under Part 5A, contravening a direction is an offence, and the statute provides for potentially significant penalties,” the letter says. 

The council is now working towards complying with its statutory duty by June 30, as directed. If it does not comply, it faces a fine of up to $200,000, followed by $10,000 per day of non-compliance.