After many months of debate about whether to fluoridate Lismore’s water supply last year, some Lismore City councillors and activists have seized on a chance for what they consider to be ‘real community consultation’ at last.
Greens Lismore Cr Vanessa Ekins, who also sits on Rous Water board, says there is an opportunity to request Rous Water to conduct independent community consultation on the fluoridation of the Lismore water supply, and be guided by these results on whether to seek a direction to fluoridate.
The opportunity has arisen as a result of a letter received from NSW Health in response to a letter sent by Lismore City Council (LCC) conveying council’s Dec 2013 decision to fluoridate.
Chief health officer and deputy director-general population and public health Dr Kerry Chant responded to LCC on behalf of the Director General in a letter dated January 10, 2014.
The letter outlines that a direction to fluoridate, if supported by the director-general, would need to replace the current approval to fluoridate, and would require the approval to fluoridate to be revoked.
Dr Chant says in the letter that ‘where a water supply authority requests a direction, the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1957 allows a revocation of the approval issued under Section 6.’
Councillor Vanessa Ekins has put together a motion after seeing correspondence from NSW Health and says this is an opportune time for community consultation on the controversial issue.
NSW Health has been ridiculed in the past over their public consultation process that supported their choice to fluoridate.
At last year’s LCC fluoride workshop Merilyn Haines said the surveys (from 2005 to 2008) of popular support by NSW health for the support of fluoridation should have been named ‘push polls’
‘These surveys only have small numbers in each area, eg in 2005 NSW Health surveyed 14 people in the Lismore LGA, 17 in 2006 and 19 in both 2007 and 2008,’ said Ms Haines.
Anti fluoride activist Al Oshlack has told Echonetdaily that the least LCC and Rous Water can do is conduct a plebiscite.
However, council staff commented in their report that ‘the proposal outlined in the Notice of Motion is not supported as it is not consistent with Council’s earlier decision of 13 December 2013 to seek a direction to fluoridate.’
‘The implication of the suggested consultation is that Council and/or Rous Water could yet again reconsider this matter and change its position.
‘As advised in the staff response to the Notices of Motion considered at the 10 December 2013 meeting, continual reconsideration of the matter causes uncertainty for the community and in particular for Rous Water which is trying to plan the implementation of fluoridation including procurement of plant and equipment, contractors and planning for installation etc.
‘Rous Water has previously determined to support fluoridation of the water supply and is proceeding to do so in accordance with the approval that currently exists.
‘The change in mechanism to facilitate that process is considered to be procedural in nature and not an opportunity to reconsider the whole question of fluoridation.’