Mayor Greg Williamson raises a glass following Mackay Regional Council's decision to remove fluoride from the region's water.
Mayor Greg Williamson raises a glass following Mackay Regional Council's decision to remove fluoride from the region's water. Luke Mortimer

Mackay votes to remove fluoride: how your councillors voted

UPDATE, 1.30pm: MAYOR Greg Williamson says within "a week or so" fluoride will be completely removed from Mackay Regional Council's water supply.

The announcement followed this morning's council vote, in which six councillors voted to remove fluoride and five voted to retain.    

Councillors Karen May, Ayril Paton, Justin Englert and Fran Mann spoke passionately in favour of stopping water fluoridation, while Martin Bella, Kevin Casey, Ross Walker and Laurence Bonaventura spoke against.  

"Well the fluoride debate was a very good debate. The outcome of public participation. We had two surveys done, one on our council website and of course one by ReachTel," Cr Williamson said.  

"The outcome today after a good debate by councillors was that council has voted to remove fluoride from the water supply.  

"That's not going to happen this afternoon. That might take a couple of weeks to do that as we wind it down."  

Mackay Regional Council chambers were packed at this morning's ordinary meeting, in which a vote succeeded to remove fluoride from the region's water supply.
Mackay Regional Council chambers were packed at this morning's ordinary meeting, in which a vote succeeded to remove fluoride from the region's water supply. Luke Mortimer

Cr Williamson said it will cost "tens of thousands of dollars to actually remove fluoride from the system".  

" ... but what happens is we let the fluoride run out of our hoppers, our containers, and we'll get rid of the bulk stuff," he said.   

"The stuff in the system at the moment, we have to let it run out or else people have got to handle it. That will take a week or so to remove.  

"It costs than $100,000 a year to fluoridate the water supply. It costs a lot more to set that up, but we have to go through a procedure now; there is a legislative procedure for turning it off.  

"We have to disconnect, so there will be some cost involved in the disconnection, but we haven't got an estimate of that cost yet, but it's not going to be insurmountable."  

Cr Williamson said it was a tough decision to make for all councillors.  

"... as a local council, public health is not our domain. We shouldn't be in this situation, but we are, so we made a decision," he said.  

Mackay doctor Michael Williams reacts to the council's decision to remove fluoride from the city's water supply 

"For local government to make a decision, the only real way that you can make this decision is see what the public that you represent have to say. And I think we've done as much as we can to see what the residents of our district had to say about fluoride.  

"I think whichever way we went today, to keep it in or remove it as we have done, there's always going to be people on both sides of the story who say you've done the wrong thing."  

Cr Williamson said the dental impacts of the decision in future were unclear.  

"I can't say that (whether dental health will decline) because if we said we removed all the fizzy soft drinks and the lollipops and the sweet stuff then you might be able to say we could do something immediately on improving dental hygiene," he said.  

"Whether the removal of fluoride from our water supply is going to have an immediate impact, I can't say and I don't think it would, but I can't say because I'm not a medical expert."  

Cr Williamson anticipated medical professionals would not be pleased with the decision.  

"The people who are going to be unhappy about it are certainly going to be the medical community," he said.   

"But the medical community know there's other ways people who want to look after their teeth can do it."

 

BREAKING 11.29am: FLUORIDATION of Mackay's water supply will be stopped, following a landmark decision by Mackay Regional Council.

In front of a packed gallery, Mackay Regional councillors voted to stop putting fluoride in Mackay's water supply in a 6-5 vote.

So who voted to remove it?

  • Mayor Greg Williamson
  • Deputy mayor Amanda Camm
  • Justin Englert
  • Fran Mann
  • Karen May
  • Ayril Paton

And who voted to keep it?

  • Martin Bella
  • Laurence Bonaventura
  • Kevin Casey
  • Ross Gee
  • Ross Walker

Following this morning's decision, Mackay now joins a number of Queensland local governments who've voted to stop water fluoridation.

Gladstone Regional Council voted to stop fluoridation as recently as July 19.

 

INITIAL: MACKAY Regional Council will decide today whether to continue fluoridating water in the region.

The decision will be made in the council's ordinary meeting, which is open to the public and due to start at 10am this morning.

A report on the issue is attached to the meeting agenda, including a "conclusion", of sorts:

"A community engagement process has been completed to assist council gauge the community's position and make an informed decision," it reads.

"The council decision of 1 May 2013 to maintain fluoridation was based on the policy position of the Queensland Government at the time and there has been no change to that position.

"When making the decision whether to fluoridate the water the council must be satisfied that the decision they make is in the best interests of the community, as per s.7 of the Water Fluoridation Act 2008.

"Both sides of the fluoridation debate have had an opportunity to highlight and put the relevant cases forward.

"This report provides operational information regarding the fluoridation of water to help inform."

It follows a phone survey showing 39.1% of respondents support fluoridation, 46.7% oppose fluoridation and 14.2% were undecided.

A poll on the council's Connecting Mackay site showed 262 respondents support water fluoridation in Mackay, while 309 did not and two people were unsure.

The council also held a "town hall style meeting" on September 14, attended by about 170 people, which was live streamed and recorded for viewing on the council's website.

 

Water fluoridation in Mackay

  • Mackay Regional Council says fluoride was first added to the Mackay water supply in 2009, after the Queensland Government made it mandatory for any town with a population of more than 1000 people.
  • It was added to the Sarina supply in 2010 and placed in the Marian/Mirani supply in late 2014, after the construction of a new water treatment plant in Marian.
  • In 2012, the LNP Government made it optional for councils to fluoridate public water supplies.


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