Ageing Waikato will still need sports centres - expert

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2014

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Waikato's ageing population could mean communities struggle to maintain demand for sporting facilities, while an expert in ageing says the recreational needs of older residents cannot be forgotten.

Sport Waikato chief executive Matthew Cooper will today update city councillors on the development of a regional sports facility plan.

The plan, commissioned by the Waikato Mayoral Forum, is due to be completed next month.It will provide councils in the region with a snapshot of existing facilities and "a clear pathway" for future facility development.

In a summary of findings to date, Mr Cooper said the provision of sport facilities was "uneven", with some areas over-supplied and others under-supplied.

Most facilities were relatively old and in need of upgrading, although declining populations meant some districts would find it challenging to maintain demand.

The findings also highlighted the need for facilities to meet the needs of older people.

An expert in ageing, University of Waikato Professor Peggy Koopman-Boyden, said decision-makers had to ensure new and existing sport facilities catered to the needs of residents aged 50 years and older.

"A question is are our facilities suitable for older residents . . . and do we need more special facilities such as the hydrotherapy pool?" Prof Koopman-Boyden said.

"The secret is, what is good for older people is also good for everyone else."

Prof Koopman-Boyden said having an ageing population was not a reason to build new facilities.

"It shouldn't be about building facilities for 20- and 30 year-olds or teenagers. A 55-year-old can cycle in the velodrome too."

City councillor Martin Gallagher, who chairs the council's community forum subcommittee, said the recently opened Avantidrome near Cambridge had focused debate on how national and regional sports facilities should be funded.

Funding for the $28.5m facility included a $6m grant from Waikato Regional Council and a $7m government grant.

Mr Gallagher said the regional sports facility plan would help inform future decisions about city facilities such as the Municipal Pool.

Once the plan is received, council staff will provide councillors with options on the Municipal Pool's future. A decision on the pool will be made after public consultation.

Regional councillor and Hamilton East Community Trust chairwoman Lois Livingston said it was important to consider the region's needs when deciding what sport facilities should be built or maintained.

However the Municipal Pool was an "amazing facility for the city", she said.

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The complex has suffered from years of maintenance neglect and was closed in 2012 after a series of mechanical and structural failings.

"The Municipal Pool isn't a major regional facility but it's a magnificent facility for the city and surrounding suburbs and schools and is a heritage project," Ms Livingston said.

"It would be very short sighted not to bring the pool complex up to where it should be."

Hamilton Residents and Ratepayers Association president Rod Bowman said Hamilton was over-supplied with sport facilities.

Little initial thought was given to the ongoing costs to maintain facilities with many sites catering solely for elite athletes.

"It's all right talking about new or additional facilities but, really, no more are required. If a sport wants to build a facility let them raise the money themselves rather than go to ratepayers every time." aaron.leaman@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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