ANTI-FLUORIDE protesters stacked the Warrnambool City Council offices again last night – but in double the numbers and with many times the fury.
Three weeks after campaigners first took their fight direct to city hall, about 150 people crammed into the chamber to voice their frustration at the council’s handling of the issue.
Tempers boiled over during the question time, with many barbs from the gallery at the council’s response to 20 written inquiries from the public.
Chief executive Lindsay Merritt repeated the council’s position that it could not call a plebiscite on fluoridation, because that was outside its powers.
The Victorian Department of Human Services had been asked to explain why it approved fluoridating Warrnambool’s water in July, without any public poll, he said.
After confirming it could not help any citizen-initiated vote on the issue, the council came under attack for supporting fluoride in its public health plan.
“You are making a decision you don’t know anything about,” Peter Sycopoulis shouted. “You’re our representatives. Represent us.”
Accusations started flying that the council only backed the health measure at the insistence of the State Government. “You’re just a rubber stamp. We can get them for $2.20 at the supermarket,” one man said.
Mr Merritt was also quizzed over the revelation that the council believed the majority of local residents were unconcerned about fluoride.
Claiming The Standard had paraphrased the council’s view inaccurately, Mr Merritt refused to detail how it had come to that conclusion.
The Standard last week quoted a letter, signed by Mr Merritt, saying the council understood people had “bona fide concerns” about fluoride. “However, it is also very likely that the majority of the community do not have any such concerns,” the letter said.
After the meeting, campaigner Peter Hulin said the council had no interest in listening to ratepayers’ views. “We are just an annoyance to them,” he said. “You could see from the reaction of the contingent tonight the people have had enough (of being ignored).”