THE fluoridation debate is still raging on the south coast of England, but governors on Australia’s Gold Coast have made up their minds.

The process of adding fluoride to the water of 3.7 million Queensland residents began this month, after the state parliament voted to make it law to add it to public supplies.

Southampton’s health chiefs have hailed the move as further proof the city should follow suit, in a bid to improve poor dental health in children.

“In the past two months alone, we have seen a major step forward with a further 11 million people in California drinking fluoridated water,” said Southampton City PCT consultant Dr Jeyanthi John.

“Now there are a potential further 3.7 million people in Queensland.

“We in Southampton now have a golden opportunity to benefit from this tried and tested public health measure for combating tooth decay.”

But the Queensland initiative, initiated by State Premier Anna Bligh, has proved controversial and has led to some political commentators suggesting it could see her voted out of office.

Campaigners, who like those in Hampshire argue fluoridation is unethical mass-medication that can lead to health problems, are vowing to fight the law with a legal challenge.

Ms Bligh, great-great-great-great-granddaughter of William Bligh, the captain of HMS Bounty during the famous mutiny in 1789, announced plans to make fluoridation mandatory after taking office late last year.

Around 70 per cent of Australians already drink fluoridated water.

Her scheme, affecting all communities of more than 1,000, was passed overwhelmingly by the state parliament in March.

“Many major urban areas of Australia have had fluoridated water for over 40 years,” said Ms Bligh.

“There is no evidence of any health problems. But they have better teeth than ours.”

But not everyone supports the scheme.

“There is widespread scepticism, particularly among farmers,” said Australian writer and broadcaster Ross Fitzgerald.

“The Bligh government has estimated about 30 per cent of the population is not in favour of water fluoridation, so you can bet the number is much higher.

“In the state election due next year, the Liberal National Party (led by an opponent of compulsory fluoridation), may well ride to power on the back of this debacle.”