Oamaru water to be fluoridated by June 30

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
The Oamaru water supply will be fluoridated by the end of the month.

The Waitaki District Council announced in a statement yesterday it had received advice from the director-general of health directing the council to have the water supply fluoridated by June 30.

The Waitaki District Council had faced local opposition to putting fluoride into the drinking water supply, a petition of more than 550 signatures urging the council to not add fluoride to the water.

Council chief executive Alex Parmley wrote to the director-general of health last month to seek a delay to having to fluoridate the water supply following a High Court judgement in November last year.

The High Court found former director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield made an error of law in the process for considering July 2022 directions to fluoridate drinking water in local authorities.

The error was made by not explicitly considering the rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 in making a decision on each direction.

The court did not quash the directions and they remained in force.

Mr Parmley said in his letter the council had concerns around the potential impacts arising from the ongoing ambiguity resulting from this judgement.

"Waitaki District Council is caught between the prospect of facing significant fines if we fail to comply and strong opposition to fluoridation from several within our community, who may challenge us with proceedings in light of the High Court findings," Mr Parmley wrote.

But the letter has been overtaken by events and the order has been reinforced by director-general of health Diana Sarfati.

She said the court order had been confirmed by a High Court decision on May 24 in which the court dismissed a challenge which sought to prevent a local authority’s implementation of the directions to fluoridate. She said she would not be granting extensions because of legal uncertainty raised by litigation processes.

Under the law the director-general has the power to direct councils to fluoridate water supplies. Ignoring this order is an offence which would bring potentially significant penalties.

The council confirmed yesterday it had the equipment to fluoridate the water quickly, so it would go ahead by the end of the month.