Communities to lose their voice in decision-making on fluoridation – the job will be centralised under the D-G of Health

The government has struck another blow against the rights of communities to decide what is best for local citizens, but with a stronger case in support of its intervention than when it wiped out the entitlement of citizens to challenge local government decisions to change their electoral procedures.

This time the intervention is science-based:  changes to a Fluoridation Bill are aimed at  ensuring a safe, effective and affordable approach is taken to improving children’s oral heath.

Decision-making would sit with the Director-General of Health.

Another statutory change affecting the wellbeing of children is the amendment of the Child Support Act “to reduce the scheme’s complexity, improve fairness and increase compliance”.

The aim is to prepare the child support scheme to transition to Inland Revenue’s new technology platform and to further simplify the scheme’s administration.

Down south, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash set out his tourism priorities in a speech at the Otago University Tourism Policy School conference in Queenstown this morning, telling his audience that planning is under way “for a new-look tourism sector” post the COVID19 vaccination programme and when international borders re-open.

The $400 million Tourism Recovery Package in 2020 was an emergency intervention, he said. Further, structural support will be needed this year, “before we make changes to prepare for a new landscape in 2022 and beyond”.

Other Beehive releases tell us –

  • Thousands of households in the Tauranga City will get waste collection bins for recycling, garden waste, food scraps and rubbish following a $20.5 million Government investment (from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund) in reducing waste in the region. The money will support essential waste infrastructure projects in Tauranga that also serve the broader Bay of Plenty region. The Tauranga City Council is contributing $4m.
  • The Government is providing a funding boost to Pacific health providers to assist them with the delivery of the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Pacific communities. This includes $10.5 million to support Pacific service delivery options, $4 million to support Pacific providers to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, $750,000 to support additional workforce training and development for Pacific Health providers and vaccinators.

 Explaining her intention to centralise fluoridation decisions in Wellington, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill proposes decision-making on fluoridation to be shifted from local authorities to District Health Boards (DHBs).

Citizens vote to decide who sits on those boards.

The Bill has been sitting in the law-making system since 2016.

It recognises water fluoridation is a health-related issue. Only 2.3 million or so New Zealanders have access to fluoridated drinking water.

“Community water fluoridation is a proven public health measure that will make a big difference to children’s wellbeing,” Verrall said.

But the Government is proposing an amendment to make the Director-General of Health responsible for the decision-making.

The change  will be done by a Supplementary Order Paper to simplify the decision-making and ensure a nationally consistent approach based on evidence is taken.

Around 6,500 children under the age of nine were admitted to hospital for tooth decay and associated infections in 2019.

David Parker, as Revenue Minister, and  Parliamentary Under-Secretary Dr Deborah Russell announced the effects of changes to the Child Support Act.

These (in a nutshell) are –

  • Fairer and more effective penalty rules
  • Compulsory deductions of financial support from source deduction payments made by an employer for newly liable parents
  • A fairer definition of “income” used for child support purposes, and
  • A four-year time bar on the reassessment of child support

The Government wants to encourage greater compliance and greater engagement from liable parents, Parker said.

“It is clear that some of the penalties imposed for unpaid child support are actually deterring people from meeting their obligations when those penalties start mounting up. 

“This new legislation removes incremental penalties.”

Russell said the changes give Inland Revenue more time to contact parents to explain child support requirements and contain “more effective” penalty rules.

“Increasing understanding and compliance will help prevent people from getting into difficulties. We want to ensure that parents feel better about engaging with the scheme,” Dr Russell said.

But whoa.  The government wants parents to feel better about meeting their obligations to contribute to the upbringing of the children they bring into the world?

Apparently so.

Newly liable parents will now have compulsory deductions made from their pay by way of employer, enabling new participants in the scheme to correctly do what must be done right from the start.

The Bill also introduces a four-year time bar on the reassessment of child support and a definition of income to include interest and dividends for salary and wage earners, using information already available to Inland Revenue.

“The purpose of this definition change is to better reflect the liable parents’ financial capability to support their children,” David Parker said.

The repeal of child support incremental penalties will come into effect from 1 April.

Latest from the Beehive

19 MARCH 2021

Speech to Otago Tourism Policy School, Queenstown

Tourism priorities post-COVID19

Extra support for Pacific health providers to vaccinate

18 MARCH 2021

Law simplifies and encourages child support

Strengthening water fluoridation decisions

$20.5m investment to reduce waste going to landfill in Bay of Plenty

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