The decision whether to fluoridate Tauranga's water supply will soon be put in the hands of Bay of Plenty District Health Board, to the dismay of a long-time anti-fluoridation campaigner.
The decision currently sits with local councils but on Tuesday, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced they would be letting district health boards make the call.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief executive Helen Mason said the board remained committed to the fluoridation of water supplies.
"While this is very early days following the announcement, our board will be discussing our approach to it in their upcoming meetings."
Fluoride was added to Tauranga's water supply in 1963 and it was removed in 1990. A non-binding referendum in 1992 resulted in the decision not to reintroduce it.
Ken Evans, who campaigned against the addition of fluoride to Tauranga's water supply in the 1990s, said in his view giving the decision to the health board was taking away voters' democratic rights.
"Here we have a National government which believes in democracy, which believes in personal effort for getting ahead. And now we have a minister proposing to take over an issue and force it on a community by taking away our democratic rights. That is absolutely disgraceful."
Dr Coleman said New Zealand had high rates of preventable tooth decay and increasing access to fluoridated water would improve oral health. A bill was expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year.