The New South Wales Opposition says a decision by a council in the state’s north to keep fluoride out of its water supply shows the Health Minister’s approach to the issue has failed.

Opposition Health Spokesman, Dr Andrew Macdonald, introduced a bill to parliament earlier this year that would give the Government the power to force councils to fluoridate their water.

The Government opposed it.

State Health Minister Jillian Skinner instead offered a $7.5 million incentive package to encourage councils to add fluoride to their water.

But yesterday the Byron Shire Council voted 5-3 against a motion to fluoridate.

Dr Macdonald says it is now time for the Minister to support his bill.

“We’ve done the carrot, it’s time for the stick,” he said.

“The children of the Byron Shire are far more important than anyone’s pride.

“We need those children to have their public health protected by the New South Wales Government.

“That’s their job; there is no choice, there is no excuse, it is time for the New South Wales Government to stop this circus and take responsibility for the health of the children of the north coast.”

The incidence of childhood tooth decay in the Byron Shire is among the worst in the state.

“What we will see is a rollback by some councils who are wavering,” Dr Macdonald said.

“A small, well-organised group can roll smaller rural councils.

“I expect that will happen; I expect that more councils will now stop fluoridating their water until the New South Wales Government takes responsibility for their job.”

New South Wales Health has rejected some residents’ claims that fluoridation is a form of mass medication.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant says she is willing to work with the community in the future if it has a change of heart.

“We respect the decision of councillors,” she said.

“We appreciate the time councillors gave us to listen to the arguments we put forward in relation to the benefits of fluoridation, and we’re happy to engage with councillors should they want to revisit this decision in the future.”

Dr Chant says she is satisfied with the progress so far.

“We’ve got 96 per cent coverage,” she said.

“We’re going to be moving to around 98 per cent coverage as we bring on those councils that have now approached us around fluoridation.

“So I think the process of moving forward with fluoridation is actually quite a positive one in New South Wales.”

A Byron Shire councillor is accusing the State Government of cowardice over the issue.

Diane Woods put forward the motion to introduce fluoride to the Shire’s water supply.

Cr Woods was in tears when speaking to the media after the decision.

She says local councillors should not be put under the sort of pressure she has had to endure.

“This State Government is more and more cowardly with decision making,” she said.

“They just will not make strategic decisions.

“All they’re interested in doing is changing the name of RMS and doing away with CMA and calling it something else.”