FLUORIDATION of Wangaratta’s water supply will only take place if the community wants it, Health Minister Bronwyn Pike said yesterday.

And the community may well be asked that question this year, as Minister Pike ups the ante on water fluoridation to combat the decaying public dental health system.

Ms Pike wants water authorities and communities, such as Wangaratta, to introduce fluoridation to combat tooth decay, particularly in light of spiralling waiting lists of public dental health services.

She says fluoridated water is the most cost effective, socially equitable method of reducing dental health decay.

North East Water this morning confirmed that a survey of Wangaratta customers last year indicated the community is divided 50/50 on fluoridation of the city’s water supply.

NEW chief executive officer Jim Martin said the authority had written to the health department 12 months ago enquiring about what criteria would constitute a community’s desire for fluoridation.

“We still haven’t got an answer,” Mr Martin said this morning.

The NEW board met yesterday with Victoria’s Director of Health Dr Robert Hall to discuss fluoridation.

“We’ve made it clear we believe this is a health issue and should be initiated by the health department,” Mr Martin said.

“We understand the implementation costs would be met by the government and ongoing operational costs of fluoridation would not directly impact on our customers,” Mr Martin said.

“We’re happy to assist the health authorities, but they must drive any approach to the community on the issue of fluoridation.”