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Board accused of cash risk

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014
WMP Pool

POSSIBLE OPTION: Waiheke High and Te Huruhi schools have expressed interest in a feasibility study for a community pool on school land. Te Huruhi’s pool, pictured, is used by some residents and children in summer.

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The new local board is refuting claims by a previous member it could risk losing $1.42m of ratepayers' money.

Former deputy chairwoman Jo Holmes says the new board's plans to sink its budget into a proposed new swimming pool at the expense of projects already on the table could see the lot disappear.

The board is proposing to assist in funding a swimming pool development by reprioritising $742,000 previously earmarked for developments at the Onetangi Sports Park pavilion, $410,000 for development of the old library premises and $268,000 for recreational boat ramps.

But Ms Holmes says Waiheke is at the bottom of Auckland Council's aquatic projects list so the board is naive if it thinks allocating money previously earmarked for other developments will help its bid for a new swimming pool.

She claims the money could be lost in council's coffers, leaving ratepayers with no pool and no other community developments.

"There are no guarantees that re-allocating this money will work and, because the new board has not set any conditions around this massive payment, there could be no right of retrieval."

Board chairman Paul Walden agrees the funds could be lost in theory but says the board can prevent it.

"If the community agrees with our proposal to move forward with the pool, we will grant the money to the school boards of trustees or a new trust set up to implement the pool project."

The new local board reprioritised its budgets in the draft Annual Plan 2014-15 and people can make a submission on the issue by February 24.

And board member Becs Ballard says all options are still up for discussion.

"We only have so much money and we are asking the community: ‘What order do you want us to put these in?' None of the items are off the table.

"We encourage people to submit and tell us what their priorities are," Ms Ballard says.

She says despite six locations around the island being offered up in last year's pool location feasibility study, the board is opting to focus on the pool being near the schools on Donald Bruce Rd.

"If we have an overwhelming response from people that don't want a pool at the school then we will consider that.

"But we have talked to the Waiheke High School board of trustees and the Te Huruhi School principal who are keen to pursue a feasibility study."

The board will fund the $25,000 study from its Small Local Improvements budget.

Auckland Council is developing an Aquatic Facilities Network Plan which will determine its priority for investment into aquatic facilities around the region, including Waiheke.

"Once the draft plan comes out in July, we will be in a better position to see where we are at," Ms Ballard says.

Meanwhile, the board has also allocated up to $15,000 so a detailed design can start to be developed for the Onetangi Sports Park pavilion improvements.

The project includes extending the football club clubrooms to create an indoor viewing area, installing outdoor picnic tables for up to 50 people on either side of the building, building lockers, extended storage and a one-cubicle shower in each changing room.

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It also includes room for a professional food concession.

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