A NSW Court of Appeal ruling yesterday giving the go-ahead for drinking water across the northern rivers to be fluoridated may not spell the end of the controversial issue, with the Greens set to campaign against it and a High Court challenge being considered.
Opponents say the legislation requiring the whole state to add fluoride to its water supplies to improve dental health is 60 years old ‘and a lot of science has passed under the bridge’ since then.
The court in Sydney unanimously rejected an appeal by anti-fluoride campaigner Al Oshlack to stop the construction of five fluoride-dosing plants in Lismore and Ballina shires.
The plants are expected to be built by Rous Water and Ballina Shire and operating within 18 months at Knockrow, Clunes, Corndale and Dorroughby in Lismore shire and Marom Creek in Ballina shire.
Rous Water general manager Kyme Lavelle welcomed the decision, saying the court’s three judges had now ruled in favour of Rous Water and Ballina Shire Council’s decision two years ago to go ahead with the plants.
Mr Oshlack last year appealed an earlier decision of the NSW Land and Environment Court, which had dismissed his challenge to the move by Rous Water.
The NSW Department of Health had directed the local authorities to fluoridate water supplies in Lismore, Ballina and Richmond Valley shires.
The court also ordered Mr Oshlack to pay legal costs of Rous Water and Ballina Shire Council, which Mr Lavelle said was around half a million dollars and which would be pursued.
Lismore Greens councillor Vanessa Ekins has urged people against fluoridation to lobby their state MPs.
Cr Ekins told Echonetdaily a petition against the decision also would be launched on Change.org.
‘The fluoridation act was passed in 1957 to have it done throughout the state, but governments have been just too slack to do it in the past 60 years,’ she said.
‘We need to review that in light of all the science that has been done since then.’
Cr Ekins she said the state Greens would be asking for a review of that legislation and they were considering a private members’ bill to that effect.
‘There’s been a lot of science under the bridge since then so the health department has been pretty slack on the uptake.’
She said water supply was costing taxpayers and ratepayers millions of dollars ‘so we’re better off paying for dentists in that case’.
Cr Ekins said only two per cent of domestic water supply was used for drinking ‘and the rest goes down the sewerage system’.
‘And we don’t know what effect it’s (fluoridated water) having downstream,’ she said.
Mr Lavelle told ABC north coast there was a possibility a challenge could be made to the High Court based on a technical point.
Mr Oshlack told APN Media he would be seeking legal advice before deciding whether to appeal the case further.
He said he was concerned the court had not looked into evidence about the health impacts of fluoride.
The decision to push ahead with fluoridation of water supplies, he said, was a political one and a referendum was needed similar to the recent Lismore council elections on the CSG issue ‘so the people can decide’.
Mr Lavelle said Rous Water would now proceed with the fluoridation of its water supply, with likely implementation by 2015.
Tenders would be called for the construction of the plants within the next few months, which could cost upwards of around $2 million.
He said the process to fluoridate water supplies ‘had been running for a couple of years now’.