ROUS Water may rescind its controversial decision to add fluoride to drinking water on the Northern Rivers as soon as next Wednesday, and could vote again on the issue.
The authority’s new chairman and Byron councillor Richard Staples yesterday told The Northern Star he would discuss the move with staff and councillors before the board’s scheduled meeting on Wednesday after Lismore anti-fluoride campaigner Al Oshlack offered to drop legal action if Rous consented to orders and not proceed with the construction of proposed dosing plants.
“It is certainly an option,” Cr Staples said.
“We have to consider all information available, but at this stage I am not prepared to call the shots.
“I will be consulting with the general manager and with councillors, probably before the next meeting.”
Mr Oshlack launched legal action following the April decision to add fluoride to the water supply, naming Rous and the Ballina and Lismore councils as respondents.
Lismore council has confirmed it would submit and not contest the case, simply accepting the decision of the court.
The original vote was mired in controversy when Rous Water deputy chairman and Lismore councillor David Yarnall changed his position after he and other councillors were presented with legal advice that they could be personally fined up to $500 a day by the Health Department until they approved the addition of fluoride.
Evenly split, this then gave the casting vote to then-chairman Col Sullivan, mayor of Richmond Valley Council.
Cr Staples, who has consistently fought fluoridation, has since taken over as chairman, meaning a new vote would likely result in a different outcome.
Mr Oshlack said it was up to Rous Water if they decided to take another vote on the issue, adding that if it consented to orders – essentially that the April vote was invalid – it would save ratepayers up to $200,000 in possible legal fees.
He said he intended to send Rous a formal offer to drop the case if they consent to orders within the next couple of days.
In his claim to the Land and Environment Court, Mr Oshlack said the vote was invalid because councillors failed to take account of environmental considerations and that they voted under duress after receiving the legal advice.
“The original decision was tarnished and the decision-making process corrupted by the standing over and bullying of councillors,” he said.
“What I am finding is the majority of councillors in Lismore and on Rous are opposed to fluoridisation, so you have this ridiculous situation where they are defending a decision they don’t agree with.”