The anti-fluoride brigade will be gnashing their perfect teeth after the Supreme Court ruled a council can add fluoride to the water supply in South Taranaki.

The court has made a majority decision that adding fluoride to drinking water falls under section 11 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act, which gives people the right to refuse medical treatment, but it has also ruled the council's power to add the fluoride is a "justified limit" on that right.

An anti-fluoride group, New Health New Zealand, has been fighting its way through the court system arguing that not only does everyone have the right to refuse to undergo medical treatment, but that the council was not legally authorised to add fluoride to the water.

The Supreme Court, our highest court, our court of last resort, has disagreed.


It was, as Water New Zealand has noted, a victory for common sense. It's also a victory for the citizens of Patea and Waverley, whose council can now move ahead with a positive health action.

But at what cost has this victory come?

South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop says the legal battle has cost the council at least $300,000-$350,000, with support from the Ministry of Health.

Water New Zealand puts the cost at upwards of $500,000.

The New Zealand Dental Association has quite rightly called the six-year legal proceedings expensive and unnecessary, a cost to ratepayers and a cost that has also fallen on the Crown via the Attorney General.

Dunlop said they'd had a request from the local district health board to add fluoride into some extra communities in the district, and were just trying to do the right thing, "particularly for young people in our communities with challenges in oral health."

"It turned into a major legal battle, which wasn't our intention."

A lengthy, expensive fight just to do what's right.


Ratepayers and taxpayers should be outraged.