Showdown ahead for district pools

By Lawrence Gullery

A showdown is looming between Hastings District Council and the soon-to-be shut down Clive War Memorial Swimming Pool Trust when it meets next week to update the public on the pool's future.

The council is taking back governance of the pool because it said the trust was finding it too "financially challenging" to operate. Hawke's Bay Today understands the move was the start of the council's plan to close pool trusts and form an overall governance group for all of the district's swimming pools.

Trustees would be invited to be on the new group.

Clive Pool trust chairman Mike Perreau, in a statement, disagreed with a council press release which indicated the trust was onboard with the move to hand back governance.

He said the trust had asked for extra money to keep the pool going during the past four years but the funds had never been granted. Increased operating expenses, inflation and new health and safety measures had made it difficult on finances.

"The council has instructed pools to keep to similar charging so income was not able to be increased to cover the costs; even if charges were increased, they would be at a level that the users would not accept," Mr Perreau said.

Hastings district councillor Rod Heaps, who is the council's appointed representative on the trust, said he did not agree with Mr Perreau's criticism.

"Nothing is going to change in terms of the way the pool is managed. It's still going to be available for the public to use.

"In fact, the pool is going to be closed later this year for a major upgrade so it can continue to be used in the future."

Mr Heaps did agree, however, the council's decision not to increase funding for the pool during the past four years, even to account for inflation, had led to its current poor position.

"My other concern is that Waterworld in Flaxmere received twice the amount of funding compared to Clive. But the Clive should be run using a business model so it can pay for itself and not always depend on funding," Mr Heaps said.

Learn to swim programmes, no longer conducted at schools, were putting pressure on public pools. The demand meant there was less time for the public to access pools.

Mr Heaps said he understood a council-led initiative to have one management group to govern all of the district's public pools was not supported by individual pool trusts.

Mr Heaps said next week's meeting "would be interesting" and would be chaired by an independent person with councillors, council staff, other pool trusts and the public invited to attend.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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