MEMBER for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams continues to share concerns, alongside the Minister for Local Government, about Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's decision to move forward with the option to hold a community poll on water fluoridation.
A move by Cr Rob Turner to abandon a water fluoridation community poll at the council election in September was defeated at this month's council meeting.
It was decided the chief executive officer, Dr Clare Allen, will advise councillors by April 2021 on possible options, with approximate cost, for ways to determine community opinion on water fluoridation.
This does not rule out a community poll held in conjunction with the election which proposes to ask "yes or no: would you prefer that council stop adding fluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid) to the public water supply?"
The council noted Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock had expressed concern about council holding the community poll at a cost for more than $60,000.
Dr Allen has been asked to write to the minister outlining local concerns about water fluoridation and requesting her advice on how council might have those concerns addressed.
Fluoridation began in the Hastings in February 2012 after the council referred the decision to the state government. The construction and completion of the fluoridation plant was made possible with state government funding close to $1.8 million.
The NSW Department of Health subsequently directed the council to fluoridate its drinking water supply.
Mrs Williams reaffirmed in Parliament last year she continues to support the position of NSW Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council on fluoridation.
Under Section 6B of the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act1957, a water utility may not cease fluoridation unless the direction is revoked by NSW Health.
A local council or water utility may request that NSW Health revokes a direction to fluoridate a water supply. In considering a request to revoke a direction, NSW Health would consider any information provided by the council.
The decision would consider the potential impacts on the community should fluoridation be ceased. This process allows NSW Health to make an informed decision in the best interests of the community.
"In relation to the outcomes of the poll, under what parameters will council take further action? For example, if 55 per cent of the community vote "yes" to the poll, will they progress to remove fluoride from our water supply?," Mrs Williams said.
"Has the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council inquired of NSW Health as to the impact of a community poll on their decision to revoke a direction to fluoridate water?"
Mrs Williams said Balranald Shire Council requested that NSW Health revoke the direction to fluoridate the Balranald water supply in 2010.
This request was made on the basis of a council survey indicating majority opposition to fluoridation in the town.
Mrs Williams said NSW Health considered a number of factors, including the council survey, surveys of other communities in NSW on fluoridation, and the major public health benefits of fluoridation, particularly to the Shire's large Aboriginal population.
"NSW Health did not revoke the direction, considering there was not sufficient basis to do so. The Balranald water supply continues to be fluoridated," she said.
Mrs Williams said the government continues to support water fluoridation as a safe and effective way to help prevent tooth decay in the community. The National Health and Medical Research Council has publicly supported community water fluoridation as a population health measure since 1952.
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