A closed meeting between Byron Shire Councillors and health professionals, both opposed to and in favour of fluoridation, will be held within a month after an emergency motion was tabled by councillor Di Woods a Thursday’s (September 19) meeting.
The meeting will include staff, councillors and experts; Dr Kerry Chant will be invited to co-ordinate the pro-flouride presentation while Jo Immig will co-ordinate the anti-flouride presentation. After that the information will be reported to the next Council meeting.
In morning public access, a handful of residents opposed to fluoridation voiced their concerns, while Cr Woods announced her appointment to the board of Rous Water, which operates Rocky Creek Dam and supplies water to the region. After recent tour of the facility, Cr Woods told the council that there are also many other chemicals being added to the water supply, one of which has arsenic in it.
When the urgency motion was debated later in the afternoon, Cr Woods was asked to explain why her motion was urgent by fellow councillors.
‘Rous have to make their decision on how many plants they have to build,’ she said, and added that she had received many threatening and nasty emails so she wanted to address the issue as soon as possible.
At times discussion became heated, and it was clear the frustration lay in the lack of scientific knowledge among councillors. There were also concerns raised about how to mitigate a possibly angry community after last week’s public outbursts at Lismore’s Council meeting.
Cr Woods said she wanted to be ‘fully informed’, and while she believed fluoride makes a difference she has reservations on the overall benefits.
‘I initially supported fluoride but now there are doubts in my mind.’
But Cr Paul Spooner questioned the urgency, and said, ‘This is council by media release.’
‘I can’t vote on this as I don’t know who the experts are – there have not been any staff reports. This is not transparent and I believe we should go through a proper process with public discussions.’
With that, the normally reserved Cr Chris Cubis flared up and accused Cr Spooner of double standards. Cr Cubis referred to an earlier motion from Cr Spooner which will see major NYE preparations for Byron Bay.
‘We went on a whim for NYE, and yet you don’t want this to be rushed… This is acting inappropriately.’
Meanwhile Cr Rose Wanchap asked if Rous was pressuring Byron Shire into the decision.
While Byron Shire’s water supply isn’t fluoridated, Ballina and Lismore have recently flagged their intention to dose their populations with the controversial chemical. Tweed is currently fluoridated. Recently, the NSW state government announced that councils could not discontinue the practice of fluoridation once started.
The motion passed with Crs Duncan Dey, Paul Spooner and Rose Wanchap voting against.
NOTE: This story was amended Sept 21: a ‘planned public meeting’ sentence was deleted as it was incorrectly stated. Presently no public meetings are planned.