Pool supervision ratios 'kneejerk'

Strict new rules on how many children can go to the city's pools with an adult have been approved by New Plymouth councillors.

Council's policy committee has endorsed the supervision ratios that have been on trial at the Todd Energy Aquatic Centre since January.

Under the new regime, one-on-one supervision is required for under-2s, while it is a one adult, two child ratio for children aged 2-5, and a one adult, four child ratio for children aged 5-8.

Councillors Shaun Biesiek and John McLeod, who do not have voting rights on the policy committee, earlier criticised the ratios and pleaded with their fellow councillors to vote down the proposal.

The new ratios were trialled following the near-drowning of a 4-year-old at the pools in last October.

Biesiek called the stringent ratios a kneejerk reaction and argued the council should trust parents to look after their own children without placing strict rules on everyone.

"This is overkill for a situation that was unfortunate."

He said the new ratios would be detrimental to young families in the district, and to a grandparent who wanted to take their grandchildren to the pools.

McLeod said the Aquatic Centre was one of the safest places in the district to swim and the council had gone too far.

"We are putting our children in cotton wool. We've got to let them climb trees and swim in rivers," he said. "With all of these extra rules we are just stifling their childhood."

He said single parent families would be affected the most by the ratios as one parent may not be allowed to look after two children if they were different ages. "We are cutting them out of having a fun day and that's not fair in my view."

Councillors Heather Dodunski, Gordon Brown and Richard Handley spoke in favour of the new ratios.

Each said the staff at the Aquatic Centre had made these recommendations and the council had an obligation to back them on their expert opinion. Safety was always the best policy, they said.

The proposal passed with six votes to five. Mayor Andrew Judd and councillors Brown, Dodunski, Handley, Howie Tamati and Len Houwers voted for the new ratios.

Grant Coward, Murray Chong, Keith Allum, Craig McFarlane and Colin Johnston voted against the proposal.

Taranaki Daily News