Fluoride case continues

FLUORIDE QUANDARY: Rous councillors consider their legal options.
FLUORIDE QUANDARY: Rous councillors consider their legal options.

THE LEGAL case in relation to the fluoridation of the water supplies by Rous Water and Ballina Council goes on with Rous Water Council deciding on Wednesday afternoon to defend an appeal by Al Oshlack in the Supreme Court of NSW.

Mr Oshlack is appealing the decision in favour of Rous and Ballina Council made by Justice Pepper in the Land and Environment Court in May this year. There are 10 grounds in his appeal that relate to the processes undertaken by Rous when deciding to build fluoride dosing plants at Corndale, Knockrow, Dorroughby, Clunes and Marom Creek.

In an extensive debate Cr David Yarnall said Rous was "damned if we do and damned if we don't" defend the appeal, because either way it would cost Rous, and therefore the ratepayers, considerable money.

So far Rous Water has spent $217,000 defending its decision.

A motion put up by Cr Vanessa Ekins not to defend the decision was lost 2/6, with Ekins and Staples in favour.

"We are being asked to defend a decision we were coerced into," she said. "We need to stop spending money (on lawyers) and actually do some adequate environmental work."

Rous chair Phil Silver told the assembled council and the public gallery that he didn't get into local government 20 years ago to fluoridate the water.

"But in all fairness I believe it is safe and effective and most people in my constituency share that view."

All of the councillors spoke of how they had wrestled with their decision, but most agreed that the court was the best place to settle the matter once and for all.

Cr Silver also expressed a view that any decision made by the Rous council would not be binding on the new council that will be formed after the local government elections. Each of the four constituent councils will then appoint their representatives to Rous and the matter may be revisited.

An initial hearing date has been set for October 17 and general manager Kyme Lavelle required direction as to whether Rous was going to defend. He estimated the cost would be in the vicinity of $60,000, which would be shared with Ballina Council.

Cr Richard Staples suggested they defend if they got "written assurance from the Minister of Health" that any losses in court be paid by the Department of Health because they were the ones who had given the order to fluoridate.

In the end a motion was put by Cr Col Sullivan to defend the matter, with $30,000 allocated for the initial hearing and Rous requesting assistance from the Minister to offset their costs.

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