Free pools a long-term goal for Len

Free swimming pool access for everyone across Auckland could be years away, mayor Len Brown says.

The Auckland Council is introducing free access for children under 16 next year at the expense of universal access in the former Manukau city.

Mr Brown says the next step could be universal free access for groups such as pensioners, the disabled and adults supervising children.

That comes after a motion by councillor Calum Penrose to give free access to those groups was lost 11-10 at a council meeting.

"I just think we will slowly but surely work towards free pools for everyone," Mr Brown says.

"I want mums and dads to be with their kids in the pools. We just need to work out a way we can do it."

Mr Brown is cautious about supporting targeted rates in specific local board areas to fund pool access. Targeted rates have been proposed by the Otara-Papatoetoe and Mangere-Otahuhu boards.

"There are issues of equity and and fairness that need to be thought through before local boards rush into the area of targeted funding. My preference is to deal at a regional level."

The mayor says homeowners in those areas need to be aware they will pay more with a targeted rate.

But he believes opinions among some councillors are turning towards making pools free.

"Some people are having second thoughts," he says.

"Their community is telling them to have second thoughts."

He compares the current situation to a similar one on the former Manukau City Council.

"When I first got on to the council 20 years ago, we were having split votes and casting votes about whether to have free pools.

"It wasn't until the last five years that we finally stopped arguing."

Manukau Courier