A last-minute bid by a Lismore Greens councillor to conduct independent community consultation on fluoride has failed after the state government moved to close a window of opportunity at the eleventh hour.
Cr Vanessa Ekins reluctantly withdrew her motion requesting Rous Water conduct the consultation at last night’s meeting.
The motion had been put on the understanding that there would be a window period between the revocation of an existing approval to fluoridate and the implementation of a state government direction to fluoridate.
But the state government moved to close the gap before last night’s Lismore City Council (LCC) meeting was held.
Cr Ekins expressed her disappointment and observed how fast the wheels of bureaucracy had turned after she put up her motion.
‘The reason I am withdrawing my notice of motion is that… late Friday afternoon the state government directed Rous Water to fluoridate our water supply.
‘What has amazed me is that in the 60 years since the state government introduced the act to fluoridate the water supply, very little has happened.
‘But in the week after I lodged my notice of motion quite a few things have happened… in just a few days LCC wrote a letter to Rous Water, Rous Water wrote a letter to the Department of Health (DOH), the DOH convened a fluoride advisory committee, they approved a direction and revoked the approval which actually gave us a choice as a community.
‘Then they informed the director-general of that process and they got an approval from the Office of Water and gazetted it.
‘So seven actions have occurred in a matter of days!’
Cr Ekins told the chamber that there are still many people concerned about the lack of consultation and the health effects of fluoride in the water supply.
‘We will continue to lobby the DOH, the local education program, and for cheap dentists,’ she said. ‘We will continue to collate research by independent scientists on the harmful effects of fluoride.’
Cr Ekins said the DOH are claiming they use independent research, which she disputes.
‘Even though their own reports suggest they do, the DOH is not using independent research.’
According to Cr Ekins, legal action will continue on the ‘unlawful medication of the population’.
Mayor Jenny Dowell was thanked by Cr Ekins for the opportunity to speak for a motion that was withdrawn.
President of the Lismore Ratepayers Association and real estate agent Andrew Gordon spoke at Public Access time. Mr Gordon believes that community consultation should fall into the category of ‘business as usual for LCC’.
‘This council all too often prides itself on providing what popular opinion dictates regardless of expense to the ratepayer,’ said Mr Gordon.
The referendum and subsequent signage opposing coal seam gas in the Lismore local government area (LGA) was referred to by Mr Gordon as an example.
‘If you set a standard of consulting the community, why now would that not continue?’ he asked.
Mr Gordon said that LCC should respect the individuals in the LGA and ask their opinion.
‘The supply of water is fundamental to our survival and it is my position that it is the individual who pays for that service and therefore retains the right to say no, and should have their rights observed in relation to that supply.’
Members of the public asked questions of LCC regarding fluoridation at public question time.
One of those was Timi Bell, an aged pensioner who has hyperthyroidism and is unable to afford adequate water filtration.
Ms Bell explained to Council that according to her endocrinologist she is unable to ingest fluoride.
‘Fluoride is a goitragenic. I need to know what Council will do about my water as I cannot drink fluoridated water,’ she said. ‘I can’t afford the alternative to what you will do to the water.’
Mayor Dowell responded that to her knowledge there were no incentives or provisions for filtration.
‘There are rebates available for water tanks but NSW Health do not recommend that you drink tank water when there is reticulated supply available,’ said Cr Dowell.
‘There is no council in NSW that I am aware of that gives financial assistance to people who don’t want to drink town water.’
Ms Bell pressed LCC for her alternatives.
Mayor Dowell said her response is the water is safe to drink.
‘Your belief is otherwise,’ said Cr Dowell.
Ms Bell reminded LCC that she has been advised by an endocrinologist not to drink fluoridated water.
Cr Glenys Ritchie said she empathised with the condition that Ms Bell has.
‘One of the suggestions that I have is that we at least approach Rous Water to increase the rebate for people such as yourself for a water tank,’ she said.
Cr Ritchie added, ‘there will be no fluoride in the water until 2016’.
Cr Ekins confirmed that she and Cr Ritchie have lodged a notice of motion with Rous Water that the rainwater tank rebates are increased.
‘This will be coming up at the next Rous Water meeting the following Wednesday so I suggest that if there are people in similar positions then now is a good time to email Rous Water councillors,’ she said.