Editorial: What price for a swim?

GRANT SHIMMIN
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014

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So what do you think about paying an extra 10 per cent for a swim?

If you're a ratepayer, but you don't actually use the new CBay aquatic centre, you probably feel ok about that. You're not actually paying to swim, because you don't, but at least there'll be no further demand from you in terms of rates to pay for CBay, which is as it should be.

If you're a ratepayer and a swimmer, you may not be too pleased, because you'll be paying anyway, assuming the 50 cent increase proposed in the Timaru District Council's draft budget gets the nod.

Full disclosure here; I am a reasonably regular user of the CBay aquatic centre, and specifically its 25 metre indoor pool. I don't hold a concession card, but I obviously have the option of purchasing one.

So until now, I have been paying the $5 flat fee for an adult swim.

Which is why, when I saw mention of that proposed increase, which amounts to 10 per cent - several times the rate of inflation - it jarred.

As you'll no doubt have noted, it was reported down our budget story today, almost an afterthought, which is appropriate, given that the story is about the proposed rate increase, and that's not an element of it.

But it may have had a similar effect for you, if you use the centre.

It jarred for me not just because of the percentage increase, but because the cost to swim is already perceived as reasonably high, having risen from less than $4 at the old Century Pool to $5 for the new centre.

Asked to justify that rise, anyone involved with the new centre could justifiably point to the difference between the two facilities. CBay is on a different planet from Century Pool, and the use it's getting after a reasonable time in operation is testament to just what a difference it has made for the town. So I can accept $5 without much quibbling. You may disagree if you're a user.

I can accept $5.50 too, after a bit of thought about it, because parking is an issue, depending on what time of the day you use the facility. Another 20 car parks will make a difference. You may disagree with that too.

What I won't be prepared to accept, though, and I'm pretty sure many will share this view, is increases well above inflation each year, which there is the potential for if, say, the 20 new car parks aren't enough and it's decided another 20 are necessary. Not that it's necessarily going to happen, it just shouldn't happen.

There has to come a point when the project's complete and users have a reasonable expectation of what they'll need to pay to keep using the facility. Inflation-related increases yes, substantial ones, no. What do you think?

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- The Timaru Herald

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