FLUORIDE will no longer be added to the Warwick urban water supply after the council voted to stop the process at a dramatic meeting in Stanthorpe yesterday.

Members of the packed gallery cheered when a motion to stop the practice was carried.

Despite the recent survey recording a return rate far less than the required 50%, Councillor Vic Pennisi successfully moved that the practice of adding fluoride to the region’s water supplies be discontinued.

At present fluoride is added to the town water in Warwick, Stanthorpe, Allora and Yangan.

The controversial survey was only sent to water ratepayers in those towns, with some claiming they didn’t receive a survey.

Overall Warwick, Yangan and Allora returned only 25% of the surveys and Stanthorpe 31%.

“For me, the debate should have come down to three parts,” Cr Pennisi told the packed chamber.

“I’m not prepared to take the risk of future class action; not prepared to discriminate and not prepared to mass medicate.”

The motion easily passed, with councillors Mackenzie, Bartley, McNally, Gow and Rees also voting in favour.

Only Cr Meiklejohn voted against the motion, while Cr Ingram – who was at a function at the time of the vote – later added she was in favour of water fluoridation.

A number of councillors admitted it was a mistake that the survey, which cost Southern Downs Regional Council $10,000, was only deemed valid if it had a return rate of 50%.

“As a council we need to stand up and say we made a mistake – we voted for it,” Cr McNally said.

Cr Pennisi agreed, saying that a return of as little as 3% should have been enough to make a decision.

“I believe we did make a mistake with the surveys,” he said.

Cr Mackenzie defended the survey process, saying that it was valuable in further gauging public opinion on the issue.

“I don’t think the money was wasted – we needed to do public consultation and we did,” he said.

Of the Warwick, Yangan and Allora surveys returned just under 65% were in favour of scrapping fluoride.

Cr Gow said the statistics painted an obvious picture.

“We made a mistake with the survey ceiling – but the results are clear,” he said.

The Stanthorpe gallery was overflowing with members of Stanthorpe’s Save Our Shires Action Group yesterday.

A brief adjournment was even called after one passionate audience member continued to interrupt the meeting.

It was a momentous occasion for SOSAG, who submitted a petition to stop water fluoridation to the council in March.

“It’s been a long time, but worth it,” member Bob Johnson said.

Following the decision, a motion was carried that the council would write to Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, suggesting the State Government reinvests in providing alternative fluoridation methods.

Tablets are not recommended in Australia.

The council will stop the water fluoridation process once three months’ public notice has been given.