The New South Wales Minister for Local Government has warned councils to be careful with taxpayer’s money after the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council accepted plans to ask voters if fluoride should be removed from the town’s water supply.
- Fluoride in water across the state is mandated by NSW Health
- The NSW Local Government Minister says she’s surprised Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is holding a poll on whether to fluoridate water
- The $60,000 poll is set to be held at the same time as September’s local government elections
The council voted 4–3 in favour of the poll in March 2020, but it was postponed to September this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cost of the poll is around $60,000.
Fluoride in water across the state is mandated by NSW Health.
The minister, Shelley Hancock, said she was dubious about where the idea for the fluoride poll came from, or why.
“Clearly council has made that decision and they’re entitled to do that. They’re independent bodies,” she said.
“But it’s a surprising decision to have been made given that there is no other council that I’m aware of even contemplating such a move.
“It’s really something that’s become entrenched in our community to have fluoridated water for the obvious benefits.”
A 1991 poll in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region found 71 per cent of the electors that participated in the poll did not want fluoride added to the water supply, which the council accepted.
The council has been adding fluoride to the water since February 2012 in accordance with the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act and the NSW Code of Practice for Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies.
Ms Hancock said it was a costly exercise simply to see if people felt the same way as they did 30 years ago.
“If it’s about updating a poll from the 90s they may wish, out of interest, to have a look at how things have changed,” she said.
“I can almost guarantee things have changed over 30 years. I think our faith in fluoride in water really has changed the way we think about it.
Council support split
Port Macquarie-Hastings Councillor Peter Alley did not support the poll and agreed with the position that the Australian Dental Association took on fluoride.
“We should always take the advice of scientific evidence and medical evidence, and in this case the view of the Australian Dental Association and the Australian Medical Association is very clear — fluoridation is an effective social health measure,” Cr Alley said.
Ms Hancock said she did not intervene in council decisions unless there was a good reason for her to do so.
“It’s a NSW Health directive that we have fluoride in water so it’s a fairly controversial step that they’re taking. But so be it, that’s their decision,” she said.
The ABC has sought comment from Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peta Pinson.
*Original article online at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-08/fluoridation-debate-revived-in-port-macquarie-after-warning/13125402