FAR Northern councils will not be forced to swallow the mandatory fluoride forced on them by the former State Government, with new laws restoring power to local communities to decide what goes into their drinking water.
The changes, passed last night, are a victory for Tableland residents that have protested against fluoride being added to their water supply since it became compulsory in 2008. It also means other councils that are fluoridating their water, such as Cairns and Cassowary Coast, now have the option to get rid of the chemical.
Water choice flows: Councils can now decide if they want to put fluoride in water supplies.
The move to allow councils to remove fluoride from water supplies has been blasted by the medical profession.
Health Minister John-Paul Langbroek, who is a former dentist, told parliament that fluoride was important for oral health, but the divisiveness of the issue meant local councils should have the ultimate say on introducing it.
“This is a huge win, not only for the Tablelands, but for communities all around Queensland,” Barron River MP Michael Trout said after campaigning for the changes.
“We’re absolutely delighted that choice has entered the equation.”
Tablelands Mayor Rosa Lee Long said the amendments to the Water Fluoridation Act were “democracy at work”.
Cr Lee Long said it also would mean huge savings for her council, which will not be introducing fluoride.
“People were campaigning vehemently in opposition to having fluoride forced into their water supply at Kuranda and Malanda, and we as a council were not looking forward to the expense and effort,” Cr Lee Long said.
“It’s win win.”
She said the council had a strong indication from the majority of Tablelands townships that fluoride was not wanted.
But Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt said he was wary of any laws that relaxed the requirement for fluoride in local water supplies.
He told Parliament the original laws were introduced when Queensland’s dental health languished among the nation’s worst, except in Townsville where fluoride was already in the water and oral health was 65 per cent better than in other parts of the state.
“It’s a safe solution to help the dental health of all Queenslanders,” he said.
The new laws are likely to re-open old ructions in communities that have already been forced to accept fluoride in their water supply.
Cassowary Coast Mayor Bill Shannon said fluoridation was about to be activated at Innisfail, but that could be re-assessed.
“There’s certainly a lot of contention about it the community is divided,” he said.
“If we’re given the right to decide ourselves, then I suspect we may choose to exercise that right, but at the moment we’re proceeding to have it turned the system on very shortly.”
Cairns Regional Council has introduced fluoride to all its water supplies except one.
Mayor Bob Manning could not be reached for comment yesterday.