Proposed legislative changes: shifting decision-making on the fluoridation of drinking-water supplies to the Director- General of Health

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The proposed Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill as drafted allows district health boards (DHBs) to direct local authorities to fluoridate their community drinking water supplies.

In March 2021, Cabinet  agreed to amend the Bill to give decision making authority on community water fluoridation to the Director-General of Health rather than DHBs. The Government intends to amend the Bill. The draft Supplementary Order paper is available to read on the legislation website and has been referred to the Health Committee for consideration. Public submissions closed on 18 June.

What the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill covers

The Bill, once amended will describe:

  • powers and duties of the Director-General in relation to making directions for or against water fluoridation
  • duties of water suppliers (including local authorities) in relation to implementing Director-General directives about water fluoridation.

In deciding whether to make a direction to fluoridate, the Director-General of Health will be required to consider:

  • scientific evidence on the effectiveness of adding fluoride to drinking water in reducing the prevalence and severity of dental decay
  • whether the benefits of adding fluoride to drinking water outweigh the costs, including consideration of local oral health status, population numbers, and financial cost.

Water suppliers will be required to fluoridate or not fluoridate a water supply if directed to do so by the Director-General of Health. Those already fluoridating will be required to continue to do so unless directed by the Director-General of Health to stop.

Background documents

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