The candidates for Bega Valley Shire Council have plenty to say on community consultation, but don’t ask them about fluoride.
On Wednesday night, the Bega District News co-hosted a public forum at Club Sapphire, Merimbula, ahead of the coming local government election.
Around 200 people came out on the night to ask questions of candidates – with only a couple of cases of heckling.
In the first half of the night the 24 candidates who attended spoke of the biggest issue they would address as councillor, as well as what strategies they would engage in to ensure community consultation would take place. The second half zipped along with groups of candidates asked questions posed by the audience.
However, when asked if they agreed with adding fluoride to the shire’s water supplies, the majority of candidates abstained from answering.
The excuse was council had already heard from anti-fluoride campaigners, but was yet to hear a pro-fluoride presentation from public health reps.
However, given NSW Health’s visit is yet to occur, depending on the election result it’s unlikely all councillors will hear both sides of the argument.
Only Tas Fitzer, Daryl Dobson and Robyn Bain agreed with adding fluoride to the water supplies, while Fraser Buchanan, Mitchell Nadin, Bob Arthur and Graham Lewis did not.
Climate change was a topic that was raised on multiple occasions during the night, starting with The Greens candidate Cathy Griff who identified it as a major issue for the Bega Valley and Liz Seckold who said the region “can be the flagship for renewable energy in the South East” .
Improving conditions for youth in the Valley was a priority for Mr Fitzer and Joshua Shoobridge, while Bob Arthur, Robyn Bain and Russell Fitzpatrick talked passionately about supporting the shire’s sporting communities.
A “controversial” question from an audience member was saved until the end, when candidates were asked about the requirements for councillors to declare their interests and were those declarations publicly available.
Michael Britten said it was an open and public record, while Tony Allen said “councillors are scrupulous in their declarations”. The election is on September 10.