Swim coaches worried changes too expensive

By Erika Venter

A rejig of the management of the town pool by the Stratford District Council has been welcomed by most learn-to-swim providers, but squad coaches are worried that some of the proposed changes might make swim coaching in Stratford too expensive.

Learn-to-swim three years ago was incorporated into the council's contract with Silver Jet Services in a bid for the income to offset the cost of the pool to ratepayers. The council, however, has decided to bring the management and staffing in-house from July 1. With a target of the pool's income meeting at least 15 per cent of its operational cost the rest is being subsidised from rates council is considering how to raise the current level of around 13.7 per cent.

A proposal is to charge a lane hire fee to user groups including private tutors, but this will be double-dipping as the swimmers already pay an entry fee, says Flyers swimming coach Clive Wheeler.

If they implement the lane charge, it will be unsustainable for us. Parents are very worried about this.

With four swimmers per lane at a proposed $10.50 per hour, this will add another $5.25 to each swimmer's two-hour session.

We do squad training in Hawera. There the only cost is lane hire of $15 per hour no entry fee. With the longer pool, we can swim up to 10 per lane.

The Flyers moved its learn-to-swim classes to Inglewood after the door closed for external providers in Stratford, but Clive says he will offer it in Stratford again and encourage the around-100 local kids to use it.

We ask council to give us the chance to get more people through the door. I am confident that we can.

Silver Jets' Sue Stannard says she has no definite plans yet for when her contract expires at the end of June. I have told my kids that I might not be back. They are sad about it. But I may need a bit of me time, says the 64-year-old.

Sue has been at the Stratford pool for 12 years, starting as a lifeguard and taking over the management contract six years ago. She started the Silver Jets swim squad nine years ago when some of her learn-to-swim students wanted to swim competitively. She will need to pass the cost on if she stays and the lane fee is introduced.

She just upped her learn-to-swim fees from $60 to $80, which she says is for the longer 12-week term and the first increase in years.

She now has around 270 children in her learn-to-swim classes and her squad has around 135 swimmers. In addition, she employs 14 instructors and six qualified lifeguards.

"I came here to provide a service. I think I have, looking at the kids' smiling faces. There is no animosity (with council), but everything is working well, why change it?

Stratford Swimming Club chairperson Diane Cooper says the club welcomes the change of allowing more learn-to-swim providers, but that a lane fee will have a substantial effect on club fees. A particular concern is losing the exclusive use of the clubhouse. We are passionate about our club, the rooms and the history there. It is not that we do not want to share, but we also use it to store equipment.

• The council will publish the proposal for public consultation as part of the draft annual plan next month.

- Stratford Press

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