This article was originally published in print in The Herbert River Express on March 1 2017
A RATEPAYER-funded phone poll survey has revealed nearly 51 per cent of residents have opposed fluoride in the Hinchinbrook town’s drinking water supply.
Hinchinbrook Shire Council has backflipped on its decision on keeping mum on the results until later this month and released the ReachTEL survey findings yesterday.
Council hired an independent market research company to call 658 residents last Monday on whether they supported or opposed fluoride in Hinchinbrook’s reticulated water system. The results revealed a total of 50.7 per cent opposed fluoride while 33.9 per cent supported it. About 15.4 per cent said they were undecided. There were high concerns among respondents of the health impacts of adding fluoride into the public water system with 35 per cent very concerned, 28.9 per cent somewhat concerned, 16.6 per cent unconcerned and 19.6 per cent not concerned at all.
In the poll, 95.1 per cent of residents who were surveyed said they were connected to the public water supply, while 2.6 per cent were not and 2.3 per cent were unsure. The issue of releasing the results was pushed forward as a late business item at yesterday’s February Council meeting after it was originally planned for March 28.
Cr Marc Tack told yesterday’s meeting that it was well known the results had been handed to Council.
He said there was nothing to gain from holding the results back and recommended the results be tabled.
“I think it’s rightly important that we at least advise the community of the results because we’ve given a commitment to this community.”
“I think this concerns all of us [the council], that we’ll be open and transparent with our dealings with the community.”
“And this is the way we are.”
Mayor Ramon Jayo and Cr Kate Milton supported the release of the results to the public.
“We are publishing the results in good faith,” Cr Jayo said.
Councillor Wally Skinner claimed he was one of the residents who took part in the three-question survey.
Cr Skinner told the meeting there was an additional question at the end.
Cr Tack said the question referred to a charity organisation.
It is understood council was unaware of the fourth question and they had considered contacting ReachTEL to ask why.
The Herbert River Express understands findings from the $2200 phone survey will now be fully considered before Council makes a decision in the near future.
The survey comes after a fiery public showdown between speakers on both side of the debate at last year’s forum at Ingham Picture Theatre.
The heavily monitored chemical was rolled out across Hinchinbrook in May 2013 despite surveys which revealed most residents were against its implementation.
The rollout in Hinchinbrook cost $3.3 million with the capital cost of $3.1 million funded by the State Government. At the time, annual running expenses for council were estimated to reach $280,000.