SMALL Far North councils look set to be the big winners following a surprise state government decision to pay for the costs of installing water fluoridation systems.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk addressed councillors and mayors from across the state, including Cairns Mayor Bob Manning and councillors Cathy Zeiger, Richie Bates and Brett Moller, at a Local Government Association of Queensland conference at the Gold Coast yesterday.
The Premier committed to reintroducing a capped infrastructure grants program for councils wanting to introduce fluoride into their drinking water.
She said a similar program was cut by the Newman Government.
“I don’t want the infrastructure costs associated with fluoridating water to be a barrier for councils when considering its introduction,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“The Newman Government, not only left the decision-making on fluoride to local government, but they left the financial burden to local government as well.
“When the former assistance program was cut there were numerous councils, including many indigenous councils, which never had the opportunity to take up the capital works funding.
“Personally, I’m a strong supporter of fluoridation.
“My message to councils is, if you make the decision to introduce fluoride into your drinking water, we will help you pay for the upfront costs — that is my commitment.”
Cairns Regional Council’s water and waste committee chairman Richie Bates welcomed the decision.
“The State Government can’t afford not to support fluoridation. This preventive health initiative will significantly reduce future costs on the already overblown Queensland Health budget,” Cr Bates said.
“But the mandating of fluoride at a state level remains a difficult task while noncommittal independents such as the Member for Cairns hold power.