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Tide out on attendance

JAMES IRELAND
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2014
Sir John Walker and Angela Dalton
KEEPING AFLOAT: Sir John Walker and Angela Dalton want free entry to the Manurewa pool to get people through the door.

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Even in the middle of the school holidays Manurewa's pools are nearly empty.

The number of swimmers has dropped by more than 70 per cent since 2012.

Auckland Council introduced free entry for children under 16 early last year, replacing the former Manukau City Council free-pools-for-all policy.

The pools are still free for anyone under 16 but parents supervising their children have to pay a dollar even if they are not swimming.

Now the pools are making $250,000 less than expected and people are staying away in droves.

The total number of visitors in April 2012 was 47,847 - that had dropped to 12,857 by April this year.

Manurewa Local Board chairwoman Angela Dalton is worried about the impact the dramatic fall will have on Auckland Council's budget.

"It's going to have to come out of the regional budget but it goes to show how a regionwide initiative can have a negative impact on a local level," she says. Auckland councillor Sir John Walker says restricting free swimming for under-16s isn't working and the pools need to be free for everyone.

"In the Manukau City Council days the idea was to give them free pools to keep people fit and healthy," Walker says. The irony is the user pays charges were brought in to increase revenue but they have driven people away, causing a drop in revenue, he says.

The rest of South Auckland has free pool entry for everyone but it is paid for by targeted rates of $31.16 a year in the Otara-Papatoetoe area and $13.64 in Mangere-Otahuhu.

Walker does not want to see another tax put on families and instead wants the council to use regional funding to pay for free pools.

Dalton says the fall in numbers is an indictment of the user-pays system.

"We have been handing out passes whenever we can but it's not enough to keep people coming in," she says.

"We need to get those pool numbers back up." Pool manager Craig Rouse is also worried about the decline.

"We do everything we can to get people in here but even in the middle of the school holidays there's hardly anyone swimming," Rouse says.

"The gym still ticks along nicely. We get more people than usual but it's nowhere near as many as it was two years ago."

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- Manukau Courier

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