A community poll has been locked in as a way to gather public opinion on the controversial topic of water fluoridation.
The poll, which is non-compulsory and non-binding, will go ahead in conjunction with the September local government election.
The decision came after almost one hour of debate and two lost amendments at Wednesday's [April 21] Port Macquarie-Hastings Council meeting.
Mayor Peta Pinson used her casting vote to get the community poll across the line.
The council, which had previously agreed on a water fluoridation poll at the next local government election, asked for advice about options to determine community opinion which would be superior to or add weight to the September 4 community poll.
A report outlined the options of a community poll, online survey, quantitative telephone survey, and qualitative workshops and forums plus quantitative survey.
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann told the meeting that a community poll was the only way to get rigorous, truly representative results.
The poll has an expected price tag of $60,000 to $65,000.
It costs the council about $280,000 on average each year to add fluoride to the water supply.
The council authorised its chief executive officer to spend up to a maximum of $90,000 on conducting the poll and associated expenses.
An information sheet is set to be finalised by May 31 to provide yes and no arguments for the poll question.
Council's chief executive officer Dr Clare Allen said the A4 sheet was an opportunity for people to receive unbiased information from two sides of the argument.
Cr Intemann said the community would have a number of months to absorb the information and come to an opinion.
Cr Pinson said the poll was about the community having a voice.
She said this was a community engagement process under the watchful eye of the NSW Electoral Commission on behalf of council.
Cr Rob Turner put forward an amendment in a bid not to proceed with any poll.
He wanted the $90,000 allocated to provide additional community support in our flood recovery crisis.
The amendment was lost.
Cr Peter Alley then raised an amendment in favour of a qualitative workshop and forums, plus a quantitative survey, as a mechanism to determine the community's opinion.
Cr Alley's amendment was unsuccessful.
Cr Turner said the council had higher priorities to spend $90,000 on than a community poll and Cr Geoff Hawkins said the poll was not a wise, efficient or effective way to spend the community's money.
Cr Alley said the council was gambling $90,000 in the hope the state government would allow the council to do something about water fluoridation.
But Cr Intemann added: "This is an opportunity, I believe, to start the process of an independent review by getting the opinion of the community and then to take it further."
Cr Sharon Griffiths said she would like to see the issue go to a poll but use council's communication resources as part of the process.
The poll question will read: "Yes or no: Would you prefer that council stop adding fluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid) to the public water supply?"
A maximum of $90,000 will be used to conduct the poll, produce the information sheet and website information, promote the poll, promote and distribute the information sheet, and provide schools and educational establishments with the information sheet and community poll details so they can discuss the issue.
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