Edgeware community wins pool fight

IN THE SWIM: Martin Coffey receives a $2.5m hug from supporters after hearing that the Edgeware Pool project is to go ahead.
IN THE SWIM: Martin Coffey receives a $2.5m hug from supporters after hearing that the Edgeware Pool project is to go ahead.

Dogged Christchurch residents, with the backing of a multi-millionaire, have won their four-year fight to buy land for a new outdoor community swimming pool.

The Christchurch City Council, in a closed-doors session, voted 10-4 to award the tender for the former Edgeware pool site to two local swimming clubs for $120,000.

Supporters said the deal marked the end of a long struggle and the start of an exciting new era for the St Albans community. It was also the first step in helping heal a rift between residents who had become suspicious and disenchanted with the council.

Christchurch property millionaire Martin Coffey, 86, who will fund the $2.5 million project, said it was great news for the local community.

"Today is a great day," he said.

Coffey was appalled when the council closed the pool. He had happy memories of swimming in the St Albans pool as a boy and wanted to put something back into the community.

The St Albans Pavilion and Pool Group and the St Albans Amateur Swimming and Lifesaving Club had been fighting the council over the 2000-square-metre site since the council demolished the deteriorating pool in 2006.

The closure and decision sparked protest marches, public meetings and bitter clashes with councillors and former mayor Garry Moore.

Both swimming clubs yesterday welcomed the decision as "courageous".

Shirley-Papanui Community Board deputy chairwoman Pauline Cotter, who had been involved in the campaign to get the land, was not surprised with the council decision.

"It is an election year after all," she said.

Cotter said the pool campaign had united the community.

Strangers had become life-long friends and the fight, while challenging, had been worth the effort, she said.

Group spokesman Craig Dickson was "understandably ecstatic".

"Now we can move forward, beyond the hurt and destruction of the last few years, and start rebuilding for the future of the children, families and schools in our community."

A resource consent, originally lodged for the site in 2007, would be reactivated. A condition of the tender is the new pool must be operating within five years.

Dickson said the new pool would not compete with the proposed Graham Condon Leisure Centre indoor pool, and there was no conflict with plans to upgrade the St Albans Primary School pool. A community trust would probably own the pool, with its board overseeing pool management.

The council could not confirm the voting record. However, The Press understands that the councillors who voted against selling the land to the groups were David Cox, Mike Wall, Gail Sheriff and local ward councillor Ngaire Button.

The Press