THE State Government is planning a public consultation program and will consider a poll to decide if south- west Victoria’s water should be fluoridated.
However, a spokesman for Health Minister Bronwyn Pike said the Government would not be imposing fluoridation without the support of local communities.
South-west dentists and medical officials have long campaigned for fluoridation, claiming that the additive would strengthen children’s teeth and reduce massive blowouts in public dental waiting lists.
However, staunch opponents have vigorously opposed the idea.
South West Healthcare chief executive Andrew Rowe said prevention was the most logical solution to long dental waiting lists.
“All the documentation shows that up to 40 per cent of decay in children can be prevented by having fluoride in our water,” he said.
“There are lots of kids getting decay that is preventable, so obviously preventative action is the way to go.”
Mr Rowe said the hospital had been campaigning “on and off for 15 years” to South West Water to have local drinking supplies fluoridated.
“It’s an absolute indictment on South West Water that they haven’t acted on that,” he added.
South West Water chief executive officer Russell Worland said the authority had last year written to the State Government to clarify the issue of introducing fluoride to water supplies.
SWW was told at the time that the Government planned to conduct a consultation program in regions without fluoridated water supplies.
Mr Worland said that program had been put on hold due to the state election and change of minister.
He added that the authority had no formal policy on fluoridation.
Fluoride opponent Frank McCarthy said more scientific evidence had emerged recently to show the dangers of fluoride in drinking water, but he supported the idea of a plebiscite.
“That is fair. If I lose I will live by the wishes of the people but I think that the anti-fluoride voters would win.
“We live in a democracy here. This is not Iraq. Without a plebiscite it should never happen.”
Mr McCarthy, a former Warrnambool mayor, added that he remained sceptical of figures showing benefits for children. “We’re kidding ourselves if we think everyone in Warrnambool is going to benefit from it.”
He also questioned the cost-effectiveness of adding fluoride due to increasing sales of bottled water.