Fluoridation Bill introduced to Parliament

  • Peter Dunne
  • Jonathan Coleman

Legislation has been introduced to enable DHBs rather than local authorities to decide whether community water supplies are fluoridated, says Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

“While New Zealand’s oral health has improved dramatically over the last 30 years, we still have high rates of preventable tooth decay,” says Dr Coleman.

“Increasing access to fluoridated water will improve oral health and mean fewer costly trips to the dentist. We know that children have up to 40 per cent less tooth decay in fluoridated areas compared to areas without fluoride.

“This change would benefit over 1.4 million New Zealanders who live in areas where networked community water supplies are not currently fluoridated.”

“Moving the decision-making process from local councils to DHBs recognises that water fluoridation is a health-related issue,” says Mr Dunne.

“Decisions would be based on the assessment of health-related evidence and local needs. Recognition that fluoridating water is the single-most important initiative to improve dental health, particularly child dental health, is long overdue and I’m sure this move will be welcomed by the wider community.”

The Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill, introduced by Mr Dunne, will go through the normal Parliamentary process including the opportunity for communities and individuals to make submissions to the Health Select Committee.

Once the legislation is passed, DHBs are expected to start making decisions about community water fluoridation in 2018. 

Notes to editors

Around 2.3 million New Zealanders currently have access to fluoridated water.

Fluoride occurs naturally in water supplies, however New Zealand levels are generally low compared to other countries, meaning additional fluoridation is needed to generate optimum health results. The World Health Organization recommends boosting fluoride to optimum levels.

In 2014 the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and the Royal Society of New Zealand, assisted by a panel of experts, concluded there is compelling evidence that fluoridation of water at the recommended levels produces broad benefits for the dental health of New Zealanders.

A recent report by Sapere Research Group found New Zealanders living in fluoridated drinking-water areas had:

  • 40 per cent lower lifetime incidence of tooth decay among children and adolescents;
  • 48 per cent reduction in hospital admissions for the treatment of tooth decay among children aged 0 to 4 years;
  • 21 per cent reduction in tooth decay among adults aged 18 to 44 years;
  • 30 per cent reduction in tooth decay among adults aged 45 years and over.