Oberon fluoride: council meeting approves addition to water supply

CROWDED: It was standing room only in the Oberon Council chambers as the community waited for a decision on whether fluoride would be added to Oberon's water supply.
CROWDED: It was standing room only in the Oberon Council chambers as the community waited for a decision on whether fluoride would be added to Oberon's water supply.

AFTER a divisive community debate, the decision's been made: Oberon will have fluoride added to its reticulated water supply.

A recommendation was carried at a packed ordinary council meeting on Tuesday for council’s general manager, Gary Wallace, to write to NSW Health requesting approval to have fluoride added to the Oberon water supply in accordance with section 6 of the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act.

The meeting began with four presentations as well as 17 members of the public addressing council with their concerns.

Councillor Mark Kellam, who moved the motion, said his decision was based on sound evidence.

"I've listened to all the pros and cons and all the objective evidence and I've made this decision to fluoridate,” he said.

Cr Mark Kellam.

Cr Mark Kellam.

Mr Wallace's report to council said NSW Health commissioned the Social Research Centre to gauge the Oberon community’s views on the potential fluoridation of the town water supply.

"The survey found that 53 per cent of all respondents agreed with adding fluoride to the public drinking water supply, 35 per cent disagreed and 12 per cent neither agreed or disagreed,” the report said.

“There was no significant difference in the response between people using the public water supply and people using other sources of drinking water."

Cr Brenda Lyon disagreed with the report findings.

"There were only 371 people contacted – this is not a good indication,” she said.

More than 1000 opinions, articles, information reports, research papers and the like were received by council during the consultation phase.

Crs Kellam, McKechnie, Capel, McKibbin and Sajowitz voted for fluoridation. Crs Lyon, Gibbons and McCarthy voted against. Cr Ian Doney was absent from the meeting.

Not ready to give up the fight against fluoride

THE battle isn’t over.

That’s the message from those opposed to fluoride being added to Oberon’s water supply after councillors voted to go ahead with the measure on Tuesday night.

The packed council chambers soon emptied after the decision as those opposed shook their heads in shock.

Veronika Cvitanovic said as disappointing as she found Tuesday night's decision, she was more disappointed because she felt councillors had ignored all of the council feedback.

"The council feedback showed 69 per cent stated they were against fluoridation, yet councillors chose to rely on the phone survey which showed 53 per cent were in favour,” she said.

"If they had combined the raw data, they would have realised that 60 per cent were against and only 40 per cent were for fluoridation.

"But what I find even more interesting is the council feedback had 192 in favour and the survey had 197 in favour. Coincidence? I think not.

"Also, why did the survey stop at 371 respondents? Perhaps they were finding it hard to manufacture the result they required to justify their position that they had already settled upon?"  

Chris Freeman told the Review that he believed the motion to fluoridate the water was clearly decided long before Tuesday’s vote.

"The proponents of fluoridation in the community and on the council who insist that NSW Health and the ADA [Australian Dental Association] are the only voices reliably worth listening to are now out in the open and on notice,” he said.

"More than enough of the community have spoken loudly and clearly that they don't want fluoride in the water. I commend the councillors who voted against it. This is not over."  

Mr Freeman said that despite the outcome, he wanted to offer his sincere gratitude to all council staff, particularly general manager Gary Wallace, Sharon Swannell and Lynette Safranek, who he said had worked behind the scenes to sort out what must have been a tsunami of conflicting data.

"I can appreciate the many hours of work that went into last [Tuesday] night's culmination,” he said. “Truth will prevail. The next chapter begins."