Push to allow elderly, disabled to swim for free

Push to get free pool access for elderly, disabled

NICOLE PRYOR
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012
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LAWRENCE SMITH / Fairfax NZ
FREE ACCESS: The elderly, disabled and some adults are hoping to get free pool access in South Auckland.

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The elderly, disabled and some adults may be able to swim free at South Auckland pools if two local boards get their way.

From April, children and teenagers under 17 across Auckland will be able to swim in any council-owned pool with no charge, but free entry to South Auckland pools for adults was set to be scrapped.

Local boards from Otara-Papatoetoe and Mangere-Otahuhu asked if they could extend the policy to cover all adults as well.

But in a late U-turn yesterday, Councillor Callum Penrose amended the request to be restricted to supergold card holders, the disabled, and adult supervisors.

Penrose will talk about the amendment with the Council Strategy and Finance Committee today.

The councillor said the swimming plan in general needed an overhaul because of "huge grey areas", but certain groups should come first.

"Those are the ones we need to encourage to get in the pools, they’re the ones that are suffering the most," he said.

"The elderly will already be suffering arthritis, they might have diabetes – then they get penalised. Spectators also get penalised, this is ridiculous. They’re a safety mechanism to make sure their kids don’t drown."

In the original request, the Otara and Mangere boards believed charging adults would have a negative impact.

According to council policy advisor Anita Coy-Macken, who said in the Strategy and Finance Committee's agenda, "they were concerned that the introduction of adult charges by the region-wide pricing policy would significantly impact on use of their local aquatic facilities and affect the wellbeing of their local communities".

"When the governing body was considering the four swimming pool pricing scenarios, both local boards supported retaining the status quo charging, where the six Manukau pools would continue as free entry and the other 18 aquatic facilities would continue to charge."

The region-wide policy was based on the idea those under 16 would have universal free access to pools, and people over 17 would be charged.

Coy-Macken said the proposal was to allow local boards to lower adult charges if they could fit it in their budgets.

"Making adults free is inconsistent with the policy unless the governing body agrees to amend it," she said.

Coy-Macken recommended the council approve an amendment to the policy so if the boards can "fund the financial implications and meet all the requirements of a special consultative procedure".

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Both local boards will report back to the Strategy and Finance Committee today to show the cost of the proposal, how the cost will be met, and why those funding options have been chosen.

- Auckland Now

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