Pool dream may be a gurgler

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 09:46 21/07/2014

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OPINION: The Christchurch City Council may have painted itself into a corner when it comes to New Brighton.

It has raised the prospect of a legacy project for the seaside suburb without setting any cost parameters or providing any firm guidance around where the money for such a project might come from.

Essentially, it has given the community permission to dream - and to dream big. And the community has done just that.

Through a community advisory panel set up by the Burwood-Pegasus Community Board, New Brighton has decided it wants its legacy project to be an all-weather, hot saltwater pools complex.

It is an old idea, but a goodie. New Brighton needs a point of difference, something to inject life into it, and a hot saltwater pools complex, done well, could certainly be a big crowd-puller.

But the project carries an estimated price tag of $20 million.

Where is that money going to come from? Is it more money Christchurch's ratepayers will have to cough up?

Mayor Lianne Dalziel admits the council can't afford to pay for the project in its entirety but she reckons the private sector will want to get involved and that the pools complex could be run as a sustainable, commercial operation.

If that is the case, why hasn't someone seized the opportunity before now?

No-one who has visited New Brighton since the quakes would dispute the fact the suburb needs money spent on it - on a cold, grey winter's day it is a depressing place, full of broken roads, broken homes and broken spirits.

As a child who grew up there in the 1970s, I fondly recall New Brighton's Saturday shopping heydays and I like the idea of a legacy project for the suburb, but what worries me is that the council has progressed the idea without first getting all its ducks lined up.

The legacy project idea was fast- tracked because of a political impasse surrounding the selection of a site for Christchurch's new eastern sports and recreation centre, for which the council has $30.5m set aside.

With one group pushing to have the pool at New Brighton and another pulling for it to be on the old QEII site, the council had a lightbulb moment and decided it should explore the possibility of taking on more than one project.

Fast-forward three months and we have a community with very high expectations and a grand plan for a hot saltwater pools complex.

The New Brighton community doesn't want a new dog park, community centre or aquarium, which were some of the less costly ideas for a legacy project initially bandied about. It wants an all- weather aquatics complex accessible to all and attractive for all ages.

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Unfortunately, such complexes do not come cheaply. The $20m estimate is just a guess. It could cost far more.

The council doesn't have a spare $20m so if it cannot find a private sector partner it will again disappoint a hard-working, passionate community that has already suffered more than its fair share of setbacks.

- The Press

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