There were cheers and applause in council chambers on Wednesday as councillors agreed to defer the vote on whether to fluoridate Bega Valley Shire water supplies.
The motion to defer followed three passionate presentations supported by community members in the gallery and included information on fluoride use in other countries.
Rob Slazenger, of Bermagui provided data relating to the use of of fluoride in a number of western industrialised countries which he said showed some of the the non-fluoride users had better dental outcomes than those who did use it.
He also produced records from NSW Health of council’s water fluoridation dosage data. There are four water supply systems in the Bega Valley Shire, Tantawanglo-Kiah, Brogo-Bermagui, Bemboka and Bega-Tathra. Fluoride has been added to the Bega-Tathra water supply system since 1963 and council is now considering adding fluoride to the Tantawanglo-Kiah and Brogo-Bermagui water supplies.
The data supplied by NSW Health appears to show gaps in record keeping and an extended period of overdosing between March and May 2010. A dose of 1 part per million (ppm) in water is recommended but overdosing varied from 30 to 97 per cent in the figures given to Mr Slazenger.
All presentations referenced the possibility of council referring the decision to NSW Health with speakers reminding council that it should be councillors’ own decision.
Greg Ferguson, of Pambula said a transfer of the decision to NSW Health would be a mockery of the democratic process.
“Council would be tainted as gutless. The whole process has been a sham,” Mr Ferguson said adding that the use of Hunter H2O as a community consultant was “a gross conflict of interest”.
It was a point not lost on councillor Russell Fitzpatrick who said he felt no obligation to transfer the matter to NSW Health.
“I totally agree it’s a decision of this council. No way should there be an abrogation of our authority on this matter,” Cr Fitzpatrick said to applause from the floor.
Director transport and utilities Terry Dodd mentioned the “voluminous” nature of material presented.
“Given the number of comments it would be unreasonable to try and digest these today,” Mr Dodds said and asked for time to review them.