The Dunedin City Council's policy on water fluoridation is
more secure after a landmark decision by the High Court in
Taranaki, Mayor Dave Cull says.
However, the council is still seeking more information about
the risks and efficacy of its own approach to water
fluoridation before considering the matter again during
budget deliberations later this year, Mr Cull said.
He was commenting after Justice Rodney Harrison yesterday
rejected arguments against the South Taranaki District
Council's water fluoridation policy by New Health New
His decision means local authorities have been given the
green light to fluoridate drinking water. He concluded water
fluoridation was not a medical treatment, and did not differ
fundamentally from other public health interventions aimed at
a wider population, such as chlorination of water or the
addition of iodine to salt.
Anti-fluoride group New Health New Zealand Inc had sought a
judicial review of the STDC's decision to add fluoride to
drinking water in Waverley and Patea, arguing the council had
no legal power to do so, but Justice Harrison disagreed.
Mr Cull, speaking to the Otago Daily Times, said the
ruling would set a precedent for councils across New Zealand
and meant the city council's own policy was now on more
secure legal ground.
Opponents of fluoridation in Dunedin, who argued against the
practice of ''mass medication'', would have to contend with
the new ruling, he said.
Mr Cull said the council was still seeking advice from
''credible authorities'', including the Dental School,
Southern District Health Board and Ministry of Health, about
the risks and efficacy of water fluoridation.
The decision to seek the information was made by councillors
last May, along with a decision to lower the target dose
added to the city's drinking water from 0.85mg a litre to
0.75mg a litre.
Since then, the actual amount of fluoride being added had
regularly fallen below Ministry guidelines, which recommended
between 0.7mg a litre and 1mg a litre of water to protect
against tooth decay.
Council staff also confirmed in January the information asked
for by councillors had not been requested, amid confusion
over whose responsibility that was.
Mr Cull said yesterday the request had taken longer than
expected ''but it is now being done'', and he hoped to have
responses in time for budget deliberations over the next few
University of Otago public health dentistry specialist Dr
Jonathan Broadbent welcomed the High Court decision.
''This decision reaffirms the legal basis of the
scientifically sound practice of community water
fluoridation,'' he said.
''The people of New Zealand have the right to benefit from
this effective public health practice. Community water
fluoridation benefits everyone, especially those New
Zealanders who are disadvantaged.''
- additional reporting APNZ