I am writing to express my deep concern over the proposed poll on fluoride to be held in December 2021.
Firstly, the wording of the question to be asked at the poll in December that councillors have again approved borders on bewildering.
If you ask the proposed question "Yes or No: Do you want Port Macquarie-Hastings Council (to) permanently cease addingfluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid) to the drinking water supply?" what would you expect would be the outcome?.
Why was the question not rephrased as recommended by the NSW Health Minister The Hon. Brad Hazzard who recently stated "that the question is inconsistent with other past community polls on fluoride and urged council to reconsider the wording to the more commonly asked "Do you agree with adding fluoride to the water supply to try and prevent tooth decay?".
This would have been a far more "community friendly" question. However, instead, they have created a question designed to baffle, intimidate and cause fear. Any use of a word with "acid" in it will no doubt cause concern.
In relation to the costs associated with this poll, one has to ask if spending $90,000 is responsible stewardship of ratepayer money?
Councillors have a duty to spend our rates wisely on projects that will enhance and benefit our community. It will achieve no actual outcome as it is NSW Department of Health policy.
The Minister for Local Government stated in an ABC article of 21st February 2021 that "they've got to be careful about how they spend ratepayers' money. That's for their community to make judgement on, and their communities will make judgement".
The Minister also stated "I think it is a waste of time and money. The only effect of a community poll will be to measure the number of people who will be disappointed because we're not allowed to stop fluoridation".
Apparently, the poll will only be used to determine community sentiment. Participation in the poll is voluntary and in general those in the community who don't care about this issue won't vote, therefore this may favour proponents who believe that fluoride should be removed. This could skew the vote in favour of removal of fluoride thus providing a false and misleading outcome. This is not a democratic vote. It would be if it were compulsory.
At a time when so many individuals and families in our country are suffering extreme hardship through loss of employment along with mental health challenges due to lockdowns because of COVID19, our council is busy spending money on a non-binding poll just because they want to gauge community sentiment over a matter that can't be changed no matter what the outcome. This is deplorable and an affront to those doing it tough.
I am embarrassed that some of our elected representatives are continuing to push this matter at this time. The inability of councillors to concede or even acknowledge they made an error of judgement in voting for this poll at this time is astounding. A measure of true leadership is the ability to admit that in this case you got it wrong.
It is shameful when you talk to those who have suffered terribly as a result of the floods and are struggling to get back on their feet. I find the expenditure on this poll morally and ethically wrong. Instead of this extravagant waste of ratepayers' money on this poll, council could have reallocated the money to specific areas of need within our community.
The issue of fluoride be dealt with at a later date by an online survey through council's website at a fraction of the cost so long as specific filters are applied to the survey and that it is limited to residents' in this LGA who can only vote once. This change of approach will more than likely be seen by the community as a conciliatory one and one that is in the best interests of the community.
One of the issues we face as a community has to be the election of councillors who are prepared to work together united as a team for the benefit of the whole community. Their role is about our community, not about their own personal agendas.
I am now aware of a large groundswell of opposition to this fluoride poll and I wish to leave no doubt whatsoever that I will contribute in any way I can to not only seeing this poll defeated but to also call out those responsible for the utter waste of ratepayers' money at a time when other far greater problems exist. Our community deserves better than this.
I do respectfully suggest that it is not too late for council to reverse their decision to hold this poll on fluoride. It would in fact reassure the community of this LGA that council have listened and have learned that now is NOT the time to conduct this poll nor is it the right platform.
I ask that all councillors look very carefully at this issue again and make a decision that reflects the leadership qualities that are expected of them by our community. I also ask councillors to re-think their stance as to whether ethically and morally this is the right thing to be doing at this stage with so much going on with COVID19 and for those still suffering as a result of the floods.