Christchurch City Council will tell the Ministry of Health that ensuring the safety of its water supply network is its priority and it has no funding for fluoridation.
“We have a complex programme of work under way that is focused on upgrading parts of our water supply network to ensure it meets the safety standards set by the Government’s water regulator Taumata Arowai,’’ says Councillor Pauline Cotter.
“Completing that programme of work is our top priority and it is where we have focused our funding in the 2022-31 Long Term Plan because we need to deliver a demonstrably safe drinking water supply for all Christchurch communities.
“Fluoridating the water to help improve people’s dental health is simply not a priority for us at this time. If we are forced by the Ministry of Health into a situation where we have to add fluoride into the water, we will need to secure considerable external funding as we have not budgeted for this in our Long Term Plan and we are prioritising our drinking water improvement programme,’’ Cr Cotter says.
Cr Cotter chairs the Council’s Three Waters Infrastructure and Environment Committee. Today, the Committee received a report which outlined the implications for the district’s water supply of the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Act.
The Act gives Director-General of Health power to direct local authorities to add fluoride to public drinking water supplies.
The Ministry of Health has signalled that it will start issuing local authorities with directions to fluoridate from mid-2022 onwards.
It has already requested information from Christchurch City Council on the costs and timeframes for adding fluoride to community water supplies that serve more than 500 people.
Council staff and external advisors believe it will take at least 44 months and $63 million in capital expenditure to fluoridate Christchurch’s water supply.
They say the cost is high because fluoride will need to be introduced at 50 locations throughout the water supply network.
“Council staff will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and Canterbury District Health Board on investigating fluoridation but our focus remains on maintaining a water supply that is safe for our communities,’’ Cr Cotter says.
The Committee agreed that as fluoridation is a national health issue, if the Council is directed to fluoridate Christchurch’s water supply, the Crown should fund all the costs.
The Committee agreed the Council should request a meeting with the Director-General of Health to explain its position. It is also wants the Ministry to supply details of all the alternatives that have been considered to fluoridate children's teeth.