The Mandatory Fluoridation Bill
Legislation was introduced to Parliament on the 17th November 2016 to remove control and decision making from local councils to a centralised entity
Update as at the 16th November 2021. On the 15th of November the Mandatory Fluoridation Bill was passed into law. The issue now needs to be reviewed by Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield. It is highly unlikely Bloomfield will decide anything other than mandatory fluoridation for the whole country. Once that occurs, all non-fluoridating councils will be instructed to arrange for fluoridation to be added to their municaplity’s water supply.
Update as at the 15th June 2021, The Second Reading of this Bill was heard in Parliament on the 8th of June and a Supplementary Order Paper was introduced. This Supplementary Order paper changes the original intention of the Bill to shift decision making to the DHBs, to now shift decision making solely to the Director General of Health. Because of the addition of the Supplementary Order Paper the issues is going back to Select Committee. Submissions close at 11:59pm on Friday the 18th of June. Parliamentary Services will advise the Hearing date.
Labour, the Greens, National and Act are in favour of fluoridation. Position of the Maori Party is unknown.
What happens next
The Select Committee could decide to recommend changes to the Bill. If the Committee advised a dramatic change, such as stopping fluoridation, the Bill would have to go back to the drawing board, or the Bill would be dropped and another Bill written up.
If no major changes comes from the Select Committee then the Bill will go for a Third and Final Reading and become law. After that, the Director General of Health has to make a decision and identify a reasonable time for Councils to comply (one by one). The councils they have to implement it, or take judicial review. The councils will have to buy fluoridation equipment which the Government has said it will subsidise. All this will take time and probably towns will be done at different times. There will be opposition if/when that happens but it will be hard for the councils because the law will say they have to pay a huge fine if they do not comply. So it would need another law change to reverse it.
The amount of opposition is going to be key because the Government may not put it to a Third Reading if they think it is too unpopular. There have been Bills in the past that have got past Second Reading but allowed to be dropped when a new Government is voted in.
Why we are opposed:
This Legislation will shift responsibility from the local councils and give it to the District Health Boards (now Director General of Health). It is designed to make it virtually impossible to stop fluoridation in currently fluoridated areas, or to keep it out of places that do not have it – even if they have said “no” to it in the past. Local Councils will be required to do as the DHB dictates or face a fine of $200,000 and a further $10,000 per day of non-compliance.
This Legislation does not allow for DHBs to consult with the community and it only allows a very narrow range for the DHBs to evaluate the subject as they will only be allowed to consider dental health in the community against the cost of fluoridation. They are being steered to only consider the 2009 Oral Health Survey rather than much more comprehensive data. They are not given any leeway to consider overall health effects.
What the Politicians say:
The National Government who introduced the Bill, and now the current Labour led Government, continually tell us that the Bill is not mandatory fluoridation, but a shift to the DHBs since they are supposedly the health experts.
At First Reading, Annette King, who was then Labour’s spokesperson on Health had this to say:
“The Minister said that population health is best addressed by elected district health boards at a local level. They are required by the Minister of Health, who has absolute say over what they do through the letter of expectation, to carry out the wishes of the Government of the day. So the idea that they have got some autonomy in making decisions around health is only very, very at the edges, if at all.”
As you will see from the transcript and related documents and the video footage of the MPs that spoke at the first Reading (5th of December 2016) – National, Labour and the Greens support the Bill. You will also see that none of the speakers know very much about the subject. Health Select Committee Chair Simon O’Connor mistakenly credits his good teeth on taking fluoride tablets as a child. Unbeknownst to him, the Ministry of Health no longer recommends fluoride tablets because we now know fluoride doesn’t work by swallowing and fluoride tablets cause dental fluorosis!
In a press release in December 2016, Labour also condemned the Maori Party for running a poll to find out what people think.
In February 2017 , the Health Select Committee received 1200 submissions and heard hundreds of people give oral presentations.
The Committee reported back to Parliament with a few recommendations. Since the election, the Health Select Committee has completely changed so none of the MPs that heard the submissions are on the Committee now.
Download Select Committee Report (contains recommendations for amendments)
Progress on the Bill
The Bill is now awaiting Second Reading. Once the Second Reading occurs it will be very hard to stop the Bill. It is then basically formality that it progresses to Third Reading where it becomes law.
Where the Parties stand
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, who introduced the Bill, has called us “tin-foil hat wearing, UFO-abducted pseudo-scientists.” He mustn’t realise that he is insulting around half of the NZ population. Results from all referenda held in NZ show that people tend to vote status quo. As only half of the country is fluoridated (23 councils out of 67, not “27 councils have rejected fluoridation” as Peter Dunne incorrectly stated) which means that roughly half the population is opposed to fluoridation (or maybe more than half) and if a nationwide referendum was held tomorrow, we would have a good chance of winning.
Luckily, Peter Dunne, has now been voted out of Parliament
Labour: Pro-fluoridation and in favour of the Bill
National: Pro-fluoridation and in favour of the Bill
NZ First: should be decided by local referendum.
The Greens support the Bill regardless of the opposition within the party. They refuse to meet with anyone opposed.
How to stop the Legislation
People need to write to all MPs and ring or meet with their local MPs and candidates. Let these people know why it is that you are opposed to this Bill and why you are opposed to fluoridation.
Let politicians know we will not vote for them if they introduce this draconian legislation.
Health Select Committee Members in 2018
Louisa Wall – Chairperson, Labour Party, Manurewa
Shane Reti – Deputy Chair, National Party, Whangarei
Jonathan Coleman – National Party, Northcote, ex-Health Minister who introduced the Bill
Matt Doocey – National Party, Christchurch
Liz Craig – Invercargill ,Labour Party , public health doctor
Kanongata’a Suisuiki Anahila – Labour, Senior exec Min Soc Development
Nicky Wagner – National Party, Christchurch
Angie Warren-Clark – Tauranga, Labour Party, lawyer, manager Women’s Refuge Tauranga
Health Select Committee Members in 2017 when Submissions were heard
Simon O’Connor, Chairperson, National Party, Tāmaki
Barbara Kuriger, Deputy-Chairperson, National Party, Taranaki-King Country
Melissa Lee, Member, National Party, Waitaki
Julie Anne Genter, Member, Green Party, List
Sarah Dowie, Member, National Party, Invercargill
Scott Simpson, Member, National Party, Coromandel
Ria Bond, Member, NZ First, List
Poto Williams, Member, Labour Party, Christchurch East
In the Media
25th February 2021 Whangarei’s mayor against DHBs making fluoride decisions
7th June 2017 Fluoridation: the greatest good for the greatest number
17th November 2016 Press Release Jonathan Coleman and Peter Dunne
13th April 2016 Bill reopens fluoridation debate
12th April 2016 DHBs could make call on fluoridation
- Local Government New Zealand’s response to amendments to the Act
- Ministry of Health’s position statement on current proposed Legislation
- Legislative Disclosure Statement from the Ministry of Health.
- Regulatory Impact Statement – Transferring decision making
- MoH Report Summarising Submissions to the Select Committee
- Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman (Minister of Health) Fluoride in drinking water: Urgent amendment to Medicines Regulations 1984 proposed. (20 Nov 2014)
- Medicines Amendment Regulations 2015 (27 Jan 2015)
- New Health New Zealand Inc v Attorney General (Oct 2014)
- The question of legality (Updated as at May 2012)
- National Ethics Advisory Committee – why won’t they address fluoridation? (2006)
- Fluoridation decision-making in NZ contains a thorough analysis of the issue of human rights (2002)
- The Human Rights Commission ruling (1980)
- The Lewis (Privy Council) case (1965)