Community water fluoridation is when the natural fluoride level in a region’s reticulated water supply is topped up to optimal levels to help protect our teeth from decay.

Is Nelson Marlborough water fluoridated?

The decision to fluoridate water lies with local authorities (councils). In 2017, reticulated water in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough regions has yet to be fluoridated.

In April 2016, government health ministers proposed legislation that, if passed, would instead give this authority to district health boards.

If passed before the end of the Parliamentary term in 2017 it is likely that legislation will come into force from mid-2018.

Does Nelson Marlborough Health support fluoridation?

“Community water fluoridation is something practical and tangible we can do as a community to reduce inequality, pain and suffering” – Dr Rob Beaglehole, Principal Dental Officer, Nelson Marlborough Health

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board adopted the following position statement in 2015:

Position statement on Community Water Fluoridation  

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board

  • considers dental decay to be an important public health issue that exacerbates social inequality and causes pain and suffering in Nelson and Marlborough
  • endorses community water fluoridation as an important public health measure in the maintenance of oral health, the prevention of tooth decay and the reduction of health inequalities
  • supports the Ministry of Health’s position, recommending the fluoridation of drinking water supplies to provide further protection against dental decay (0.7 – 1.0 mg/L)
  • acknowledges that community water fluoridation is a safe, effective and affordable population-based strategy for the prevention of dental decay
  • is committed to promoting health messages endorsing community water fluoridation as a cornerstone of oral health in conjunction with eating healthy food, reduced sugar intake, twice daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and regularly visiting a dental provider
  • is committed to working with local and central government and other public health organisations to actively promote the fluoridation of community water supplies.

Read the full position statement, with background information, here.

What is fluoride and why do we need it?

Fluoride naturally occurs in the environment, including in water. While fluoride helps protect teeth, most water sources in New Zealand do not naturally contain it at high enough levels to help prevent tooth decay.

This is why the decision has been made by many New Zealand councils to increase fluoride to the optimal levels of 0.7 to 1.0 parts per million in their region’s reticulated water.

Is fluoridation safe?

A 2014 review by the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and the Royal Society of New Zealand found that fluoridation at the levels used in New Zealand creates no adverse health effects.
Fluoridation is supported by health organisations worldwide and there is more than 60 years of extensive scientific study to support its safety.

Here are some of the organisations that endorse fluoridation:

Ministry of Health (NZ) World Health Organization (WHO)
The New Zealand Dental Association New Zealand Medical Association
Public Health Association of New Zealand New Zealand Nurses Organisation
Te Ao Marama – The Maori Dental Association Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service
New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine NZ Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association
NZ Oral Health Clinical Leadership Network Group NZ Society of Hospital and Community Dentistry
Royal New Zealand Plunket Society Cancer Society of New Zealand
Office of the Children’s Commissioner The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons British Dental Association
British Medical Association Australian Dental Association
Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Department of Health, Victorian Government, Australia
US Surgeon General American Dental Association
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) FDI World Dental Federation

Scientific papers and resources

Health effects of water fluoridation: A review of the scientific evidence
A 2014 report on behalf of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor

Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand
Jonathon, J Broadbent et al. (2015)

Evaluation of evidence behind some recent claims against community water fluoridation in New Zealand
A Royal Society of New Zealand journal article by J Broadbent et al (2015)

Our Oral Health: Key Findings of the 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey
A Ministry of Health (NZ) study

Critique of the review of 'Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries' published by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2015
A British Dental Journal article (2016)

Community Water Fluoridation: One of the 10 Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century
Vivek H. Murthy, United States Public Health Service Surgeon General (2015)



Dr Lance O’Sullivan, Māori of the Year/Nga Toa Whakaihuwaka 2013 and New Zealander of the Year 2015

Ministry of Health – Sir Peter Gluckman video