Beehive, 12 April 2016
DHBs rather than local authorities will decide on which
community water supplies are fluoridated under proposed changes
announced today by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate
Health Minister Peter Dunne.
"New Zealand has high rates of preventable tooth decay and
increasing access to fluoridated water will improve oral health,
and mean fewer costly trips to the dentist for more New
Zealanders," says Dr Coleman.
"This change could benefit over 1.4 million New Zealanders who
live in places where networked community water supplies are not
"Water fluoridation has been endorsed by the World Health
Organization and other international health authorities as the most
effective public health measure for the prevention of dental
DHBs currently provide expert advice on fluoridation to local
"Moving the decision-making process from local councils to DHBs
is recognition that water fluoridation is a health-related issue,"
says Mr Dunne.
"Deciding which water supplies should be fluoridated aligns
closely to DHBs' current responsibilities and expertise. It makes
sense for DHBs to make fluoridation decisions for their communities
based on local health priorities and by assessing health-related
A Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament later this
year. Members of the public and organisations will have an
opportunity to make submissions to the Health Select Committee as
it considers the Bill.
Notes to editors
Around 2.3 million New Zealanders currently have access to
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
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
established and recommended levels produces broad benefits for the
dental health of New Zealanders.
Fluoridation effectively and safely reduces tooth decay and
provides benefits for all age groups. On average, children and
adolescents aged under 18 will have a 40 per cent lower lifetime
incidence of tooth decay.
In 2013, more than 40 per cent of all five year olds and more
than 60 per cent of Maori and Pacific five year olds had already
experienced tooth decay.
The 2013/14 NZ Health Survey found that 35,000 children between
1 and 4 years had had a tooth extracted in the last 12 months due
to decay, and Maori children were 1.6 more times likely to have a
tooth extracted than non-Maori.