Fear and fluoride, bedfellows amidst conflicting “evidence”

The Tantawangalo water supply source at Six Mile Creek. Image Kate Burke
The Tantawangalo water supply source at Six Mile Creek. Image Kate Burke/Raisin

The potential fluoridation of the Tantawanglo-Kiah Water System (Candelo, Wolumla, Merimbula, Tura, Pambula, Eden, Kiah) and the Brogo – Bermagui Water System (Quaama, Cobargo, Brogo, Wallaga Lake, Bermagui) has divided the Bega Valley community.

With Bega Valley Shire Council’s decision on whether to fluoridate or not still pending, the way forward seems far from clear.

By the way, the Bega – Tathra Water System has been fluoridated since 1963.

The international anti-fluoride Fluoride Action Network (FAN) challenges the safety of fluoridation despite reassurances from peak health bodies such as the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Dental Association.

FAN cites a series of scientific studies that point to negative health effects related to fluoride. Yet the World Health Organisation cites fluoridation of water as, “the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay.”

The ingredients of this debate are a potent mix of conflicting evidence, with added fear, and a rather large ethical grey area.

It’s murky and hard to navigate.

Yet if you can familiarise yourself with this tricky landscape, you can start to make sense of the different perspectives people have on this issue, and perhaps take some of the fear out of the equation.

It turns out that scientific studies, the foundation stones of public health debate, are not always as rock solid as they seem.

While the fluoride debate touches on personal choice, welfare, and economics; scientific studies are a central part of pro and anti-fluoride argument.

A body of studies has been cited by the Fluoride Action Network pointing to potential effects of fluoride such as reduced IQ in children, obesity, and even cancer.

The Australian Medical Association claims that there is no appreciable link between fluoridation and these side effects.

But with so much at stake, how do you navigate the conflicting “evidence” that we’re finding?

Where better to begin than Google Scholar?! Google’s search engine for published academic studies. What happens when you search for “fluoride and IQ”?

Looking through the studies that have linked fluoride to lower IQ in children, one thing stands out – most studies that popped up didn’t test for other factors that could affect IQ.

Many studies were from China, India, or Mongolia, and compared towns that fluoridated water supplies with those that didn’t.

However, they didn’t check for other differences between the towns – levels of poverty, nutrition, potential lead and arsenic poisoning, all of which can affect the IQ of children.

This is like blaming weight gain on exercise, without considering diet.

These studies simply don’t meet the criteria needed to inform sound decision-making, yet they are published online alongside studies of higher quality.

Twenty low-quality studies that link lower IQ and fluoride, alongside only one quality study that finds no link, can look like strength in numbers and cast the wrong impression.

Assessing evidence doesn’t work like that. It’s not like voting. One study is not necessarily worth the same as another.

The problem is that scientific investigations can be carried out and published (particularly online) by any scientist, from any organisation. Most are carried out with noble intentions, but even noble intentions can be fed by bias – if you’re passionate about a cause, or feel that you’ve found an important link, established scientific practices might fall by the wayside.

Glass of water. Source pixabay.com 1160264
A glass of water. Source pixabay.com 1160264

Dr Andrew Wakefield’s study linking autism with vaccination is a famous example.

Dr Wakefield and his colleagues felt that they’d found an important link after reviewing the cases of eight people who’d been diagnosed with autism within a month of receiving the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The investigation was found to be riddled with problems; their medical assessments and analysis of results were described as incomplete and biased.

Much of the criticism of Dr Wakefield’s study suggested it ignored statistical significance.

Given that 50,000 children per month were vaccinated with MMR in England at the time, eight presentations of autism were not enough to establish a link.

Statistical significance is needed for a scientific result to have meaning. Where health is concerned, this usually means two things –  that a lot of people were tested and the results were strong enough to discount coincidence and other confounding factors, such as nutrition and lead in the IQ example.

Dr Wakefield’s study was discredited, and wide scale, high-quality studies were carried out that found no link between autism and vaccination.  But his study was already fuelling the fears of parents across the globe.

When something appears to threaten the health of children, it can achieve notoriety.

It’s important to carefully examine the information you are given or find yourself, but how do you sift through the jargon, the publications, the conflicting evidence?

Putting your fear aside, how do you know what and who to trust?

Dr Will Grant of the Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science says that it’s almost impossible for one person to do this alone.

“While I’d love to say that I have the capacity to truthfully assess the veracity and rigour of all research that’s available online, I simply don’t have that capacity.  In fact, no one does,” he says.

“Instead we’re all forced to use the decision-making heuristics we’ve always used, typically though not exclusively, trusting a variety of voices in our networks that know better.”

Dr Grant says that we rely on institutions to process this information for us.

“But if I’m a person who doesn’t trust these institutions – and the number of people who don’t trust the central institutions of society is growing globally – then I’m going to trust other things,” he says.

Kate Burke
Kate Burke

Other things might include organisations like FAN, who question the reliability of institutionalised knowledge.

The FAN website claims it, “develops and maintains the world’s most comprehensive online database on fluoride compounds.”

Despite making this claim, they don’t give you a comprehensive review of the quality of materials in their database.

The Australian Government’s National Medical Health Research Council (NHMRC), is a not-for-profit research organisation that draws on the expertise of people tied to the University of Melbourne, Royal North Shore Hospital, The Cancer Council, Alfred Hospital, and Monash University, among other organisations.

The NHMRC has released a Health Effects of Fluoridation Evidence Evaluation Report through its Clinical Trials Centre at the University of Sydney which provides an analysis of fluoride research from the last decade.

It’s worth a read for two reasons.

Firstly, it assesses the quality of studies looking into the effects of fluoridation on dental caries (decay) and other symptoms from 2006-2015, and walks through them bit by bit, weighing up their value without apparent bias.

Secondly, its conclusions reflect the “greyness” of this debate. The NHMRC says the evidence appears to indicate that Australian water fluoridation standards are safe, while also suggesting there are gaps in the research.

The recommended level of fluoridation is shown to give a 35% reduction in dental caries. This is a significant number, as it means that more than a third of dental decay can be prevented by adding fluoride to a water supply.

This has knock-on effects for the rest of a person’s health and reduces financial pressure on individuals and the economy by cutting down on visits to the dentist.

The report also shows that recommended fluoride levels can increase the incidence of tooth discolouration due to fluorosis (a chronic condition caused by excessive intake of fluoride compounds, seen as mottling of the teeth) by around 12%.

Healthy teeth, Source Pixabay
Healthy teeth, Source Pixabay

The NHRMC document also gives many of the scientific reports presented in this debate a confidence grading.

The low overall confidence grading of the reports that raise concerns about cancer and IQ perhaps take some fear out of the equation, as the ratings are low enough to discount many of the studies altogether.

The presence of studies of higher quality (ie more thorough and more reliable) have tipped the balance of evidence away from such matters of concern.

However, if the NHRMC also suggests there are gaps in the research, why can’t we just test for the negative health effects that fuel much of the fear in a robust credible way?

In Australia, people are exposed to fluoride in a number of ways, including in toothpaste and tea, and it naturally occurs in the environment around us. This means that a person’s previous exposure to fluoride is very difficult to determine. To find a bunch of people who have never been exposed to fluoride as a control group, and then to test the effects of drinking fluoridated water on them, is extremely challenging.

And as the studies linking fluoride and IQ in China, India, and  Mongolia show us, these studies are problematic because there are so many other factors that can contribute to influence a person’s health.

Finding the fluoride link is not easy.

The NHMRC review gives us an indication of which way the evidence is swinging – and it’s telling us that fluoridation of our water supply will give us healthier teeth and that the only side effect of significant concern is discolouration caused by fluorosis.

It also tells us that other side effects are most likely not going to happen at Australian levels of fluoridation.

Our personal views on fluoridation are important and varied and can’t be discounted.

But it is important that we are able to critically assess the information that is given to us.  If we can’t do this on our own, we can at least have a look at how others have reviewed it and make sure that we’re satisfied with how they’ve done it, which perhaps takes some of the fear out of the equation.

 

*Kate Burke is completing her Masters in Science Communication through the Australian National University

*Above is an edited article that originally appeared on Raisin – stories of regional science and innovation

*Ian Campbell founder of About Regional is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council

About Regional, podcast 14 – your solar power questions answered

Interest in installing solar panels is strong. Source: NSW OEH
Interest in installing solar panels is strong. Source: NSW OEH

Long before Donald Trump turned America’s back on the Paris Agreement, Australian families decided that investing in solar energy for their homes and businesses made sense, in fact Australia has the highest take-up rate in the world.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is keen to build on that and have just been in the region, dropping in on towns where the take up of solar panels hasn’t been as great as it has been in other communities.

Free community seminars in Queanbeyan, Cooma, Eden and Ulladulla have helped “Demystify Solar Power’.

OEH staff were on hand to answer questions and lead discussion – explaining the different options for businesses and households wanting to switch to solar; saving money and saving the planet.

The Paris Agreement was part of the conversation that took place at these seminars, but this all happened just before Trump quite, not that I think the local response would have been different.

Lisa Miller is a confessed solar geek from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Or listen and subscribe via Audioboom, iTunes, or bitesz.com

Resources recommended by Lisa: Clean Energy Council, Australian PV Institute, OEH – Energy Efficiency

Thanks to my partners in this program – Light to Light Camps rolling out the red carpet on the 31 km track between Boyd’s Tower and Greencape Lighthouse south of Eden.

Feedback, story ideas, and advertising inquiries are really welcome – send your email to hello@aboutregional.com.au

Thanks for tuning in, see you out and about in South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian

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About Regional, podcast 13 – Reusable water bottles for every high school student

Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic Collage at Pambula.
Philanthropist Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula.

This week, one man takes on the garbage building in our oceans…

Every high school student in the Bega Valley will soon have a reusable drink bottle, cutting the need for single use, light weight, disposable plastic water bottles.

Over the last couple of months’ students at Eden Marine High School, and Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula have received a stainless steel drink bottle to refill at school taps and bubblers.

Kids at Bega High School got there’s today (May 16), and Sapphire Coast Anglican College down the road will soon have theirs.

This marine environment initiative comes from Bega Valley philanthropist Peter Hannan.

As someone who loves the ocean, Peter says he felt compelled to act after hearing of the impact plastics are having on the world.

Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.
Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.

Following last year’s Marine Science Forum, hosted by the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, Peter made a pledge to buy 2500 reusable bottles and distribute them to year 7 to 12 students across the Shire.

Peter comes from a family of community action, his late mother Shirley, established a trust before she died to fund a national portrait prize that is held every two years, which has since grown to incorporate a youth prize in the alternate year.

See below for audio options to learn more.

My partners in this podcast are Jen, Arthur and Jake at Light to Light Camps in Eden –  offering fully-supported hikes along Australia’s most spectacular coastline, it’s wilderness done comfortably.

Thanks for tuning in, your feedback, story ideas, and advertising inquiries are really welcome, send your email to hello@aboutregional.com.au

Listening options:

Click play to listen here and now…

Or listen and subscribe via Audioboom iTunes or bitesz.com

See you out and about!

Ian

Demystifying solar power in Cooma, Eden, Ulladulla and Queanbeyan

The NSW Government are hosting free solar seminars are coming to Cooma, Eden, Ulladulla, and Queanbeyan.
The NSW Government is hosting free solar in Cooma, Eden, Ulladulla, and Queanbeyan.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) are hosting free ‘Demystifying Solar’ seminars for businesses and households across South East NSW.

Mark Fleming, from OEH said the seminars will explain in plain-English the different types of solar technology available and the trends in solar power use in Australia and around the world.

“We had such a positive response to the last seminars that we are again encouraging people to come along and get the info they need to make decisions that are best for their circumstances,” Mr Fleming said.

“We’ll also explain the different options available for local businesses wanting to switch to solar and save money on bills.

“Businesses and households often get unsolicited approaches from companies wanting to install solar panels and while most people agree that solar is a good thing, it’s hard to compare these offers.

“At the seminars, you’ll find out the exact questions you should ask suppliers if you are thinking about installing solar panels,” said Mr Fleming.

Mark Fleming talks to About Regional, click play…

 

Around 800 people attended the seminars held last year across the region and since then more than 50% of those surveys have either installed solar or are in the process of getting quotes.

“Our goals to make people comfortable to ask the questions on their minds and leave with a much clearer understanding as to if solar is right for them,” Mr Fleming said.

The seminars:

  • Tuesday, 16 May 2017, 2:00pm to 4:30pm @ Queanbeyan City Library, Rutledge St, Queanbeyan.
  • Wednesday, 17 May 2017, 8:30am to 11:00am @ Alpine Hotel,  Sharp Street, Cooma
  • Wednesday, 17 May 2017, 2:00pm to 4:00pm @ Eden Fishermen’s Club, Imlay Street Eden
  • Thursday, 18 May 2017, 1:00pm to 3:30pm @ Milton Ulladulla Ex-Servos Club, Princes Highway, Ulladulla.

For more information go to solarpvqueanbeyan.eventbrite.com

The seminars are free, but bookings must be made with OEH via (02) 6229 7139 or rog.illawarra@environment.nsw.gov.au

 

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Podcast 12 – Eden’s Wanderer Replica Project

Ben Boyd's Wanderer, painted by Oswald Brierly. From Wander Replica Project website.
Ben Boyd’s Wanderer, painted by Oswald Brierly. From Wanderer Replica Project website.

Today the story of a bunch of people with history and salt water in their veins, people making progress on ambitious plans to build a replica of an 1830’s luxury sailing ship.

Scottish-born entrepreneur, Ben Boyd sailed the 25 metre Wanderer into Sydney in July 1842, he soon set sail for Twofold Bay at Eden on the NSW Far South Coast following four steamers crammed with supplies down the coast.

Seeking his fortune, Boyd quickly established a network of pastoral properties spanning a landscape that took in the sea and the snow.

He also took charge of coastal steamship operations linking the region with Sydney, Melbourne, and Tasmania, and was a player in Eden’s whaling industry.

Part of his enterprise remains – the impressive Seahorse Inn. Construction started in 1843 using sandstone imported from Sydney and oak fixtures from England.

Boyd’s Tower on the southern shores of Twofold Bay is his other legacy. Constructed in 1847 the 23-metre-high lighthouse was intended to guide his fleet of ships home.

A number of challenges, not at least his overly ambitious plans and the financial depression of the time, combined to undo Boyd and he was declared bankrupt in 1848.

He left Eden on the Wanderer to restore his fortunes in the Californian Goldfields, but his treasure chest was never the same.

He was last seen in the Solomon Islands hunting for duck. Creditors came looking, but his body has never been found.

The Wanderer Replica Project was launched in 2014 by a group of locals with a love of Boyd’s story and skills in shipbuilding.

Fundraising moves ahead, and so too does the ship building.

I caught up with one of the committee members selling raffle tickets. Jon Gaul says apart from the historical and tourist interest the completed Wanderer will also offer youth training and development programs.

My partners in this program can also help you explore much of this history, Light to Light Camps explore the coastline between Boyd’s Tower and Greencape Lighthouse in style – it’s kinda like Attenborough meets Kardashian.

Check in with Jenny, Arthur and Jake at Light to Light Camps.

Thanks for tuning in – your feedback and stories ideas are always welcome, flick me an email to hello@aboutregional.com.au or we can connect via the About Regional Facebook page.

About Regional – a new place for the stories of South East NSW.

Listening options –

Click play to stream audio here and now:

Or listen and subscribe via Audioboom iTunes or bitesz.com

New eco-tourism venture adds a touch of luxury to the Light to Light adventure

The pinks and purples of the Light to Light walk
The pinks and purples of the Light to Light walk

The pink and purple coastline that stretches south from Twofold Bay at Eden has long inspired bold and daring feats, and it continues to do so in 2107 with the launch of a new eco-tourism venture.

Light to Light Camps rolls out the red carpet for small groups of hikers, the first party of four ‘mature‘ ladies has just returned beaming about the experience.

Jenny and Arthur Robb have seen the potential this distinctive environment embodies, both from a business perspective as a new tourist attraction and at a personal level for those who lace up their boots and walk the track over two nights and three days.

This 31-kilometre adventure spans the ever-changing coastline of the Ben Boyd National Park on the Far South Coast of New South Wales.

The ‘lights’ that inspire the name are Boyd’s Tower and Green Cape Lighthouse.

Walkers travel between seven and 13-kilometres every day, an ‘intermediate’ walk taking between three and four and half hours after a good breakfast.

Mary Pearce (centre, white hat) and her girlfriends standing on top of Green Cape Lighthouse
Mary Pearce (centre, white hat) and her girlfriends standing on top of Green Cape Lighthouse

The first people of this country have known the track for thousands of years, the Yuin People have a history of hunting for whales from this shoreline and collecting shellfish, one midden in the area dates back 3,000 years.

White man history is perhaps more obvious to hikers and was a highlight for Mary Pearce and her girlfriends, the first to do the walk under Jenny and Arthur’s watch.

“Something I knew about but had never been to, and it was very poignant, was the Ly-ee Moon Cemetery, just a little bit north of Green Cape,” Mary says.

Driven by a screw propeller, the Ly-ee-Moon was sailing from Melbourne to Sydney in what the Captain described as a “moderate sea” on the night of May 30, 1886.

At around 9:30 pm the ship struck the rocky reef at the foot of Green Cape Lighthouse, which had only been in operation for the three years prior.

Seventy-one men, women and children lost their lives, the cemetery Mary points to is the stark reminder of the disaster. Sixteen people were heroically rescued in the darkness by the Lighthouse Keeper and his assistant.

Mary says Arthur and Jenny’s knowledge of the history dotted along the track makes for great campfire conversation at breakfast and dinner.

Mowary Beach, a highlight on the Light to Light walk
Mowary Beach, a highlight on the Light to Light walk

History is your starting point on day one of the walk under Ben Boyd’s Tower, on the southern edge of Twofold Bay.

Boyd was a Scottish stockbroker and entrepreneur with big ambitions in the new colony that was taking shape far from his London HQ.

The tower was built in 1847, Boyd keen to establish a lighthouse to guide his fleet of steamers and whaling boats home. His big plans failed on all fronts, but his tenacity is dotted around Eden to this day. I’ll leave Arthur and Jenny to tell you more.

While the history you will experience with Light to Light Camps is rich and varied, it’s the environment that is front and centre during this experience.

“It was absolutely so memorable,” Mary says.

“We’re keen birdwatchers, and we were really after a sighting of the Eastern Ground Parrot, which is quite elusive and rare.

“Arthur had us all clued up for it, he also told us we needed to be quiet,” Mary laughs

Wildlife abounds on the Light to Light walk
Wildlife abounds on the Light to Light walk

Two sightings followed on the stretch between Bittangabee Campground and Green Cape.

“Quite beautiful, quite spectacular, and very special,” Mary says.

Idyllic but basic campgrounds managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service at Saltwater Creek and Bittangabee Bay have always offered respite and sanctuary for walkers doing the track, but camping in that traditional sense is not an option for Mary and her girlfriends, who are all aged in their late 50’s, early 60’s.

What Jenny and Arthur offer, makes camping possible for people who otherwise wouldn’t and without a doubt they take it to a new level.

“When we discovered Light to Light Camps, it was a dream come true,” Mary says.

“We had the camping without the pain of camping, Jenny and Arthur took away the pain.”

Click play to hear more about Mary’s adventure with Light to Light Camps…

 

Mary says the walk itself is not terribly hard and remembers walking into Saltwater at the end of the first leg to be greeted by her hosts.

“We walked into this most gorgeous set up,” Mary recalls

Chillaxing with Light to Light Camps
Chillaxing with Light to Light Camps

“There were twin tents, beautiful camp stretchers with mattresses and white sheets and white, crisp pillowcases.

“We had a shower with hot water and we had gourmet food and wine, it was just like the Hilton at Saltwater,” Mary says.

The smile on the veteran teacher’s face broadens as she remembers the snacks and treats she nibbled in cool shady gullies along the way, and the fresh salad wraps that were eaten at lunch after a swim in the brilliantly blue waters of a sandy cove.

Hostess, Jenny has lived in the local area since the early 1980’s, Arthur since the mid-1990’s.

They are driven by sharing this unique landscape and it’s wildlife with people and providing a connection and experience not possible without their efforts.

“This place is very special,” Jenny says.

The Light to Light Track follows some of Australia’s most spectacular coastline.

The trail moves beside rocks dating back over 400 million years, a marine environment with incomparable diversity, coastal heath and forests of Banksia and Ti-tree, side by side with ancient Aboriginal culture.

“The stories of Eden’s whaling days are also part of the journey and the incredible and long-lasting relationship between whalers and Killer Whales,” Jenny explains.

“There is a lot to take in, and we invite people to explore it all at their our own pace without the burden of tents, food and extra water.

The end of a great few days, Green Cap Lighthouse
The end of a great few days, Green Cape Lighthouse

“We are there at the start and end of every day to spoil you with delicious dinners, a hot shower and a luxurious camp set up – we’ve got you covered,” Jenny beams.

Any new business comes with a good dose of nerves and risk. Being bold and daring is part of the required toolkit.

Mary thinks Jenny and Arthur are on a winner.

“I can see overseas tourists just loving it,” she says.

“It’s a truly Australian experience, it’s not mass-produced and plastic, it’s really as we are, the potential is just amazing.”

Light to Light Camps comes from and is inspired by South East NSW, About Regional is a proud partner and supporter.

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NSW Local Government Elections – there has gotta be a better way

People casting a vote
People casting a vote

The results of the poll have been declared, the new Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils are getting down to work, however some voters are perhaps still wondering who are these people?

Leading up to Polling Day on September 10, locals had to contend with a field of candidates that would have filled a few of buses.

Fifty-five candidates stood in the Eurobodalla, 26 in the Bega Valley; contesting nine spots on both councils.

Many voters expressed frustration leading up to the poll around the lack of information about each candidate. People had a real sense that they were voting blind and resented a feeling of being forced to vote without the necessary information.

Moruya’s Keith Dance has served two terms on Eurobodalla Shire Council and lays claim to having contested every council election between 2000 and 2010.

He says he has been arguing against the way councilors are elected for many years.

“My argument has always been – we have eight vacancies (plus the Mayor), we should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance says.

“As a voter, we should be able to elect our council, not elect one member of a group and hope that their preference trail will go where we want it to go to fill the other seven spots.”

An advocate for below the line (number every box) and first past the post voting, Mr Dance is of the view that many candidates simply contested the election to direct preferences to a lead candidate.

“I makes it hard for people to decipher, to work out what the candidate’s credentials are, or even to know whether these people are fair dinkum,” Mr Dance says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya
Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya

Rather than simply placing a ‘one’ above the line next to a candidate’s name, Mr Dance wants voters to be able to vote for each position on council directly.

‘Above the line’ voting plays out at Eurobodalla Shire elections more so than in the Bega Valley, where the makeup of candidates tends not to lend itself to that extra voting option. Having said that though, preference flows did influence the size of the field south of the Shire boundary at Dignams Creek, so the argument put by Mr Dance is relevant for both Shires.

“We should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance suggests.

“That would shrink the field down because you would only have people who were fair dinkum about being elected.”

He believes there are at least two people elected to Eurobodalla Council on September 10 that had no desire or ambition to sit in the council chamber. Mr Dance claims these candidates found themselves higher up the preference flow order than was originally intended and hence elected on the back of a strong lead candidate.

“Now they have to try and work out whether they can fulfill the commitment of an elected councilor,” Mr Dance says.

“I used to spend three or four days a week (on council business) so the commitment to be a councilor is fairly high.”

Keith Dance from the About Regional podcast:

Coincidently Victoria is heading into Local Government Elections next month and part of the process unfolding south of the border has merit and would increase voter engagement and confidence according to Mr Dance.

This longtime council watcher believes the postal voting method many Victorian councils adopt would be a win for disillusioned voters in NSW.

“Voting information is sent to the elector and they return it as a postal vote,” Mr Dance says.

“You do not have to run the gauntlet of going into the polling booth with umpteen people in front of you shoving paper in your face saying ‘vote for me, vote for me’ it frustrates the hell out of people.”

Mr Dance says the Victorian system includes candidate profiles as part of the voting information sent out to people on the electoral roll, reducing confusion while increasing confidence in the process.

“We had nearly 12% informal voting, a 12% vote is enough to get one candidate elected, it’s wrong, it just doesn’t work,” Mr Dance says.

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

A spokesperson for Local Government NSW (LGNSW), which represents the interests of the Local Government sector in NSW, says postal voting does not have widespread support.

“Postal voting could disenfranchise a significant proportion of the voting population, particularly young people and those with less permanent addresses,” the spokesperson says.

Mr Dance disagrees and says, “It allows people to have a proper vote.”

“It needs pushing and now is the time to do it, after the election, people have had enough of this,” he says.

A spokesperson for the NSW Electorial Commission says NSW Local Government Elections are administered according to the legislation.

“Responsibility rests with the Premier and the Minister for Local Government, reforms are therefore a matter for the government of the day,” the spokesperson says.

Any organisation or member of the public can make a submission on the conduct of elections to the NSW Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

“I raised this issue at a public meeting in Moruya,” Mr Dance says.

“There would have been 70 people in the room and I damn near got a standing ovation.”

Disclaimer: Author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council