PORT Macquarie-Hastings Council spent $18,788 on preliminary works to conduct a community poll on the issue of water fluoridation.
The poll will no longer proceed at the December 4 local government elections after a council resolution at the September meeting resolved to can it.
It was to ask the community the question: "Do you want Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to permanently cease adding fluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid) to the drinking water supply"?
The poll would have been not compulsory for voters to participate in and non-binding for council.
The poll, which caused much division and debate, was scrapped in favour of taking up Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams' offer to bring the discussion and any concerns directly to the state government as the authority that mandates water fluoridation.
The community poll push was spearheaded by mayor Peta Pinson and deputy mayor Lisa Intemann, who has been a long-time anti-fluoride advocate. The aim was to gauge community opinion on the issue.
- Council lodges questions as part of water fluoridation dialogue
- Council agrees to can community poll on fluoride
- Community poll on water fluoridation to proceed at December council elections
- Doctors united in objection to "flawed" fluoride community poll
- Mayor wants fluoride facts from Minister
- MP Leslie Williams says fluoride is a matter for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and state government to debate
- Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann proposes replacing fluoride poll with MP's offer of robust state debate
There have been several moves by some councillors to stop the poll as well as correspondence by the Hon Shelley Hancock, Minister for Local Government expressing her concern that council had resolved to conduct the poll and Minister for Health Brad Hazzard over the nature of the question.
Council's chief executive officer Dr Clare Allen had also been requested to advise councillors with possible options for engaging with the community to determine their opinion on the matter as well as prepare an information sheet to be made available to the public to support the poll.
Despite this, council again resolved to reaffirm its position to conduct the poll and authorised the CEO to spend up to a maximum of $90,000 to conduct and promote it throughout the community by creating the information sheets and engaging with various community stakeholder groups.
It was estimated that the cost to conduct the poll would be approximately $60,000 as provided by the NSW Electoral Commission.
A full financial report was presented to the October council meeting outlining expenditure on the poll.
"Preparations for the community poll has taken a significant amount of staff resources leading up to the poll," report said.
"These duties range from researching and compiling information suitable to include on the information sheet as well as liaising with external stakeholders to assist in the preparation of the information sheet.
"Meetings were held with NSW Health, the Australian Dental Association and Fluoride Free Australia to obtain supporting arguments for the yes and no options on the information sheet for the community poll.
"Much of this information provided had to be reviewed and confirmed as well as discussed among staff for relevance and accuracy. Staff time was also used to prepare reports to be considered by council on this subject.
"A significant amount of time liaising with the NSW Electoral Commission was also required due to the changing dates and wording of the poll together with arrangements for conducting the poll."
The staff primarily involved in the preparation work and the number of hours estimated spent on the community poll preparations are:
- Director Infrastructure - 28 hours
- Group Manager Infrastructure Operations - 28 hours
- Group Manager Customer Experience and Communications - 35 hours
- Group Manager Governance - 21 hours
- Internal Communications Specialist - 35 hours
- Communications Office Creative Design - 20 hours
This amounts to approximately $18,778, including on costs.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: