Pool closure creates waves

MARY-JO TOHILL
Last updated 15:33 23/07/2014
Wanaka pool closed
AIMEE WILSON/Fairfax NZ
CLOSED FOR BUSINESS: Wanaka Community Pool's indefinite closure due to failure to meet earthquake standards, has enraged locals and groups who rely heavily on the facility.

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Wanaka's elite athletes have to find another facility, or travel to Cromwell, with the indefinite closure of the town's only public swimming pool.

Wanaka Swim Club had two swimmers, Hamish McLean, 14, and Sophie Fairbairn, 15, competing at the New Zealand Short Course Nationals in early September who needed to keep training, president Richard Fairbairn said.

Getting access to pools at privately-owned homes, hotels and resorts had become a matter of urgency. But in the short term, the club was looking at travelling to Cromwell daily, a 110 kilometre round trip.

The club is among hundreds of dispossessed users reliant on the Wanaka Community Pool for swimming lessons, therapeutic and general fitness and in some cases, to earn their living.

The pool was closed by owner the Queenstown Lakes District Council without warning last week due to non-compliance with earthquake standards.

Fairbairn said he hoped the council realised the huge implications it had for the community, and the possible loss to the local economy.

"We have international triathletes and international swimmers who rely on this pool for training along with a large number of competitive, and fitness swimmers. Without a pool facility to train in they will be forced to leave town."

The council has advised Wanaka residents will be able to use their public swimming pool passes at council-run Cromwell and Frankton facilities.

It was "moving quickly" to consider all options relating to the Wanaka Community Pool, including the cost of remedial strengthening work to re-open in the short term, general manager of operations Ruth Stokes said.

In the meantime, the council was finalising details with the Central Otago District Council to allow Wanaka residents to swim at the Cromwell Swim Centre for the same price as they paid at home, by producing proof of residence. Their passes would also be honoured at the Alpine Aqualand at Frankton.

Before last Friday's closure, council staff were apparently already assessing upgrade options, which included adding a learners' pool to the Wanaka facility.

Building a completely new pool at Wanaka's Three Parks development along with the proposed new Wanaka Sports Facility, was also revived for consideration.

"We are continuing to evaluate the viability of those options," Stokes said.

It was originally built as the school pool for the adjoining Mount Aspiring College. Principal Wayne Bosley said he and school's staff were shocked by the closure, and concerned for the community's immediate future.

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"We have always supported the idea of keeping the pool close to the schools. It is important for the council to act quickly as access to a pool in this area for sport, fitness, rehabilitation or recreation is very important."

Without knowing what remedial work would cost, Wanaka Swim Club president Richard Fairbairn's initial preference was to upgrade and extend the existing facility.

"In our opinion, we do not need an over-the-top aquatic facility for this town. We need a training pool and a combined family/learn to swim pool with upgraded facilities that are close to the schools."

He felt the town was lacking sports facilities, and that the council should spread any allocated money among groups.

A proposed new 25-metre indoor public swimming pool in Wanaka's Northlake development would be subject to the council approving a plan change at its meeting tomorrow.

A statement released this week said the development would include land for a subdivision, which would require the re-zoning of 219 hectares of land north of Aubrey Road and near Outlet Road, from rural general to a new Northlake Special Zone.

The plans were prepared by town planning and resource management consultancy John Edmonds, on behalf of three adjoining landowners.

The developers would approach the council to discuss options to "fast track" the new swimming pool, with the possibility of it opening to the public next year, he said.

- The Mirror

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