Report on possible fluoride extension commissioned

Fluoride Free Waitaki spokeswoman Sheryl Black speaks to the Waitaki District Council to ask them...
Fluoride Free Waitaki spokeswoman Sheryl Black speaks to the Waitaki District Council to ask them to keep the chemical out of the water supply. PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
The Waitaki District Council will consider asking the government for a formal extension following a request from the local anti-fluoride community to keep the chemical out of the water supply.

Regardless of whether the council follows through, Mayor Gary Kircher made it clear there was "no intention to fluoridate until we have a lawful directive" from the government.

In 2022, the council was instructed to fluoridate its water, but now it is waiting for instruction after the order was ruled as unlawful by the High Court.

A petition with 554 signatures protesting the fluoridation was delivered to the council this month and an opportunity to speak was given to the group.

The petition called for the council to stop all fluoridation plans, to acknowledge the right to refuse medical treatment and for it not to serve the "central government bureaucrats".

At the meeting on Tuesday, Fluoride Free Waitaki spokeswoman Sheryl Black asked for the council to request an extension so it did not have to fluoridate until at least the end of the year.

The Nelson City Council was granted an extension this month.

She said the Ministry of Health was relying on "shoddy, biased data" to push fluoride into water supplies.

"Make no mistake, we will file a judicial review if this council decides not to seek this extension."

There was some upset throughout the chamber when the council moved on from the petition, as those involved believed an extension would voted on right away.

Mr Kircher said it would be "pretty poor practice" to hold a vote immediately without proper consultation.

However, the council moved to request a report on the possibility of requesting the extension, which will be discussed at the next meeting.

In 2021, the law was changed to give the director-general of health control over the fluoridation of water. This was acted upon in 2022 by Sir Ashley Bloomfield when he filled the position.

Sir Bloomfield sent the order for to 14 councils to add the chemical to water supplies, so councils began to act on it.

In November last year the High Court found the decision unlawful, as Sir Ashley did not make consideration of the Bill of Rights act which allowed anybody to refuse medical treatment.

The Health Ministry is now appealing this decision and whether the order will stand is still unknown.

That leaves the council in a difficult space, especially because it has already spent $500,000 installing the fluoridation equipment.

Mr Kircher said it was likely the petition would be forwarded to new director-general, as she actually had a choice in the situation.

"We are not the decision maker on this.

"It’s set out in law; it’s the director-general."

He fully expected the directive would be put through in time.

If the order did go through then the council could refuse it, but the consequence would be a $10,000 fine every single day.

That was "not something we want to burden ratepayers with", he said.