Fees threaten pensioner pool visits

SARAH ARGYLE
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2013
Ken Wood
Sarah Argyle
PAINFUL PRICE: Pensioner and arthritis sufferer Ken Wood has qualms about looming entry charges to council-owned pools.

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An arthritis sufferer fears new charges could force him to stop his regular visits to the pool.

Everyone in the former Manukau city area still gets free entry to council-owned pools.

But on April 2 that will change when Auckland Council scraps free entry for everyone except those 16 and under.

The council's proposal to offer a discount for disabled pool users, seniors, students and community services card-holders is a $2 single entry fee or $18 for a concession card of 10 visits.

Howick pensioner Ken Wood walks up and down the lanes for 60 minutes, four times a week to ease his arthritic joints.

As a regular pool user he has qualms about the looming threat to pool pricing and thinks it is "excessive".

When he was diagnosed with arthritis in his knee, doctors suggested water walking to alleviate the pain and help calm the joints.

And it helps. He has noticed a huge difference and his leg is more mobile.

"The pain is still there, I have to accept it. I'm not as supple as I used to be," he says.

"The people I swim with are worried. It's a cost problem."

He says swimming is a commitment he makes for his health.

"For people like myself on a pension it's a huge amount to pay. Why should we pay a huge amount for a medical condition?"

Mr Wood says the crux of the issue is that people who swim under medical instruction should be treated differently.

"If there has to be a fee it needs to be one that a pensioner could afford."

"I'm not criticising them, it's just something they haven't thought of."

Howick Local Board sport and recreation portfolio holder John Spiller sat on the former Howick Community Board and says members felt there should at least be a gold coin donation by adult users for cost recovery.

"It had been apparent for a long time the decision to keep pools free was a political one."

Mr Spiller personally believes there should be a small minimum charge for adult users but children 16 and under, superannuitants and disabled users should have free access.

"I would support a reduced charge for use that was for medical benefit and therapy, provided that was supported by a doctor's letter and reviewed on say a three-monthly basis."

He says free use of pools is a niggly debate when council-owned and run gymnasiums attract charges at market rates.

The council will make a final decision on pools pricing policy in March.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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