Pool closure postponed

The Southern District Health Board has debated whether to immediately shut down its deteriorating historic physio pool.

The board agreed yesterday to postpone a planned closure of the Otago Therapeutic Pool, run by the Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust, until December to allow some resolutions toward the continuation of physio pool facilities to be made.

The discussions came after a plea for more time to raise funds for the pool and build community support to retain it from pool trust chairman Neville Martin.

The board resolved to encourage discussions between the Dunedin City Council, which has expressed an interest in being involved in the running of the pool, the pool trust and others to resolve the pool's future.

The cash-strapped Southern DHB, which is about to post an annual deficit of more than $15 million, owns the heritage-classified Otago Therapeutic Pool, the first of its kind in New Zealand and built in 1946. Its closure would save the board tens of thousands of dollars in operating costs annually, a staff update said.

Add the cost of a much-needed upgrade and the board's advisory board concluded closure seemed the only solution.

At least $1m was needed to replace all tiles in the pool, repair concrete and upgrade the plant.

Its disrepair also carried a clinical risk to some users, a board staff update said.

Board chairman Joe Butterfield emphasised the board's inability to justify prioritising those costs in the face of the DHB's financial struggles.

An average of 35,000 members of the public, physio patients and elderly people swim in the pool's thermal waters annually.