Charges create 'dumping ground for kids'

Fears are being raised that Takapuna's popular swimming pool could be over-run with unaccompanied children.

From July 1, adults accompanying under-10-year-olds to the pool will pay $4.30, up from $1.

The Devonport-Takapuna Local Board voted for the increase following a recommendation by Auckland Council staff.

But local board members Dianne Hale and Jan O'Connor worry that staff at the council-run pool will be stretched by the increase in the fees.

Figures supplied by the council show the pool's seven fulltime staff hosted 220,000 visits last year. Hale and O'Connor predict an influx of unaccompanied over-10 children from the fee change.

"If you put that charge in you're going to get a dumping-ground for kids," O'Connor says.

Kaipatiki Local Board member John Gillon, whose own board rejected the increase, says the Devonport-Takapuna board is trying to claw-back loss of income.

In 2013, Auckland Council made swimming free for under-16s at all its pools.

The new charge, shifting costs from children to parent/ guardians effectively removes the free charge for many families, Gillon says.

Hale disagrees.

Imposing higher entrance fees at the pool won't recover costs but will make more effective use of the facility, she says.

"If you offset against what had to be paid for before, you'll probably find it's still cheaper," Hale says.

The Devonport-Takapuna board voted three to two to approve the increase.

Auckland Council wants to align pricing across all its pools, claiming it will "ensure effectiveness" within operational costs.

Although O'Connor voted against the resolution, she agrees in principle with council's move to gain efficiencies through standardisation.

"I personally think there should be standard charges, just like the libraries."

Both Hale and O'Connor advocate a "wait-and-see" approach with the costs of the policy changes, which have yet to appear on the board's books.

"It's probably a year or so before we'll see the impact," Hale says.

North Shore Times