Rous Water will seek further legal advice about the prospect of successfully defending a case in the Land and Environment Court taken by anti-fluoride activist Al Oshlack.
Mr Oshlack lodged the case back in July and his evidence was filed in court on October 8 and 11. His case asserts that the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) adopted by Rous at a meeting in April was invalid because councillors were forced into a situation where they were voting under duress and that there was not sufficient information about the release of fluoridated water back into the environment.
Mr Oshlack filed affidavits (written evidence) from the deputy director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW, Dr Mark Diesendorf, as well as a former president of the Dental Association of South Australia, Dr Andrew Harms, and a clinical doctor from Queensland, Dr John Ryan.
Rous Water has been granted an extension to file and serve their affidavit evidence by November 26.
Mr Oshlack had made an offer to Rous to “consent to orders”, which would effectively mean Rous would not defend the case, (therefore not build the dosing plants) and pay his legal costs, which he says are less than $3000 at this stage.
“If they continue with case, we are organising further affidavits from two international experts. We will respond to any evidence they bring on, so it will become a big case,” he said.
Mr Oshlack said that when Rous applied to build fluoride dosing plants at Dorroughby, Corndale, Clunes and Knockrow, it was the first time in NSW that planning permission had been sought to fluoridate a water supply. Therefore this was the first time a legal challenge had been made against the process of fluoridation.
At a Rous Water meeting yesterday, Wednesday November 17, council voted to make public a status report on the court case, but then later went into closed session to discuss legal strategies and options. In the debate about accepting the report prepared by Council’s legal representative Mark Brennan and other material from NSW Health, Cr Keith Johnson warned that Mr Oshlack “had a better than average chance of being successful.”
Cr Phillip Silver said although the legal debate was around the REF and the dosing plants, if Rous backed away from the case, there would be a huge backlash from people who wanted to have their water supply fluoridated. This sentiment was supported by Cr Col Sullivan who said that the people of Richmond Valley overwhelmingly supported fluoride.
“We hear so much from the anti-fluoride lobby, but we have a community in Ballina who have voted to have fluoride in our water supply,” Cr Silver said.
Cr Silver also said he had been approached by numerous accusing Rous of being “obstructive” on the issue, to which Cr David Yarnall responded, “It’s not council that is obstructive, it’s a member of the public bringing legal action.”
Rous voted that the General Manager and the chairman be given authority to obtain legal advice on the prospect of success in the case, which they are hoping to have before their December meeting.