CR Lisa Intemann set the agenda for a future debate about the fluoridation of the Hastings water supply, when she declared at the December meeting of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council that the matter will be addressed before the next local government election.
The issue was raised by Cr Mike Cusato, who was supported by Cr Intemann and deputy mayor Cr Adam Roberts, in opposing the acceptance of tenders from three suppliers for the transport of chemicals to the water treatment and fluoridation plants at Wauchope on the grounds they do not support the dosing of the local drinking water supply with hydrofluorsilicic acid.
Council accepted tenders for the supply and delivery of chemicals for Hastings water and sewer operations for the next 12 months from Omega Chemicals (liquid aluminium); Orica Chemicals (sodium hypochlorite, hydrated lime and hydroflurosilicic acid) and Air Liquide Australia (carbon dioxide).
The fluoridation of the Hastings water supply commenced in February 2012 under the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1957 following a NSW government directive. The fluoridation of the water supply has been hotly debated in the region since the 1980s with more than 20,500 residents opposing the move in a community poll staged in conjunction with the 1991 local government elections. The issue was not raised again until 2004 when the Mid North Coast Area Health Service hosted discussions with regional council’s on dental decay on the Mid-North Coast.
With the support of the NSW Cancer Council, Australian Dental Association and state government members, council resolved to put the issue of fluoridating the local water supply to the NSW Department of Health.
In 2010, council signed a $1.78 million funding agreement with the NSW government for the construction of a fully equipped fluoridation plant at Wauchope under the condition that it would repay the amount if fluoridation did not commence, or was discontinued, within a period of 15 years.
Prior to her election to council in September 2012, where a 4000 signature strong petition to hold a community poll was deferred for consideration by the new council by administrator Neil Porter, Cr Intemann was an outspoken opponent of fluoridation. Anti-fluoride advocates petitioned and rallied council, established the Fluoride Action Network and fuelled an online campaign to block the decision to proceed with what they claim to be the poisoning the water supply.
“The benefits of fluoridating the public water supply is a myth and unsupported by science,” Cr Intemann told her fellow councillors.
“I have followed this matter for quite some years and am confident that in not too many years to come, we will realise it was a mistake to put a chemical in our water supply and in our food chain that is a biological toxin.
“I am concerned about the effects this will have on our children. The world as a general rule has abandoned this notion.”
Cr Intemann said the time will come during this term of council to debate the issue. While she admits it is a “very tricky issue” and one the state government needs to be made accountable, she will consider pushing for a community poll as a possibility at the next council election.
“Our government has avoided its responsibility to the dental care of this nation,” she said. “During this term of council we will address this in an adult manner.”
Cr Justin Levido said council must remember its responsibility to the contract it signed with the state government.
“This council is subject to a state government order to put fluoride in our water supply. This is a state government issue,” Cr Levido said. “If they give us the option not to put it in our water supply, then so be it.”