The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) has observed with growing concern the obvious confusion & frustration in the community at Council’s mismanagement of the fluoridation issue.
The source of this confusion appears to be a widespread misunderstanding on the part of the community as to the role of the company Hunter H2O, originally engaged by Council to mount an information campaign intended to inform the community on the supposed merits of fluoridation, in conjunction with NSW Health.
Rightly, or wrongly as it turned-out, Council & Hunter H2O obviously decided that it would make sense to use the website specially built for that purpose as with a feedback facility, which became available in late 2016 & was promoted under Council’s ubiquitous “have your say” slogan, serving only to create the impression that community feedback was being gathered, collated & assessed by Council.
Of course, trouble arose when some members of the community were advised that the feedback was actually being directed to Hunter H2O & there was no information available to say how it was being managed & what would happen to it.
Community concerns were further aroused when it became apparent that Hunter H2O was also in the business of supplying fluoridation infrastructure, prompting many to conclude that it had a perceived conflict of interest & it was therefore entirely inappropriate for it to be ‘managing’ the community feedback process.
Those concerns were then heightened by the significant number of people who have become actively engaged in the issue within the community, plus reports of major performance failures on the part of Hunter H20 in the management of its fluoridation activities & anger that Council & Hunter H2O decided to communicate only with those residents whose water supplies would be directly impacted by any action to introduce fluoride, effectively sending a message to the rest of the community that their views weren’t important, even though they might be affected if they or their children visited towns or areas or undertook activities in locations affected by fluoridation.
The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association believes that the confusion & concern in the community around the feedback process could have been avoided had Council recognised the importance of the feedback process being kept separate & independent to the promotional campaign being pursued by Hunter H20.
The association believes that it is crucial for Council to immediately take back direct control & management of the feedback process, so as to reassure the community that its views are not only being heard but that when they are reported publicly to Council, there is a possibility that they may be treated with the respect they deserve in the final decision-making process.
And while the association is not expressing a view on the merits of fluoridation itself, it does wonder about the NSW state government’s capacity to prioritise investment for the benefit of the Bega Valley Shire, when it is prepared to spend upwards of $1m to introduce fluoride into the shire’s drinking water, allegedly to improve public health, but it does nothing to address the real dangers to our health by refusing to fund filtration systems on all of the shire’s water supplies.
The danger for Council is that if it does not act to restore community confidence in the management of this significant community issue, by recognising the need for a more robust & independent feedback process loop, then its credibility will be further damaged as a result.
For further comment on this issue, please contact Fraser Buchanan on 0429 881 836. In Eurobodalla: The anti- Fluoride matter was dismissed Tuesday 2 December 2014 The NSW Land and Environment Court has dismissed the case filed by Eurobodalla Fluoride Issues Incorporated. The case sought an injunction to stop Eurobodalla Shire Council from fluoridating the water supply.The judgement handed down by Justice Craig late last Friday found that Council had conducted an appropriate environmental impact assessment of its fluoride facility and allows Council to continue to provide high quality water to Eurobodalla residents and visitors.Eurobodalla Shire Council introduced fluoride into the water supply at its Deep Creek facility in 2011. Eurobodalla Fluoride Issues Inc v Eurobodalla Shire Council  NSWLEC 182 (28 November 2014) Eurobodalla council fluoride case dismissed