Summer relief as mayor rejects closure of pools

By Tessa Johnstone tessa.johnstone@age.co.nz

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Supporters turned out in force yesterday to protest a council report suggesting South Wairarapa pools be closed, but were cut off at the pass by Mayor Adrienne Staples who said the report was inaccurate.

Opus International Consultants, based in Palmerston North, was commissioned to produce a $2500 report on the state of pools in Featherston, Martinborough and Greytown.

The report estimated it would cost $733,000 over the next 10 years to keep the pools open, due the amount of work needed to bring them up to standard.

It suggested several options, including closing all three pools, closing two pools and upgrading one, and carrying out the reactive or statutory maintenance.

Mrs Staples said she was very concerned about the reliability of the report and the council would not make a rushed decision.

"It's absolute bunkum," said Mrs Staples of the report's claim that the council did not have adequate water quality testing processes in place.

"I'd like to give our public a categorical assurance that our pools are tested and there is no concern for the health of swimmers."

Mrs Staples said any major decisions about the district's pools would need to be raised during the annual plan process, and there would be community consultation. "If there was to be a major decision it would not be done with the stroke of a pen at a meeting."

Featherston Amateur Swimming Club president Jo Johnson said was also concerned about the accuracy of the report, saying that its writers had used incorrect information about the history of the Featherston pool - including its opening date - and which amenities belonged to the club or to the council.

She said as the only Learn to Swim provider in South Wairarapa, and the only adequate pool available for the three local primary schools to use, it was vital to keep it open.

Johni Rutene, representing Papawai, called the report "flawed" and a "sham", and said Maori should have been consulted.

Greytown Swimming Club secretary Gary Dewhurst said he was concerned that key users of the town's pool, such as Greytown School and Greytown Campground, had not been consulted.

Mr Dewhurst also said that the Greytown Pool usage statistics had not been used in the report, and they would need to be considered in future decisions.

Bernadette Seywell, Greytown, said the report did not include the fact that none of the pools have adequate disability access but supported some investment in the pools.

"Instead of the council saying we're broke, we've got no money, say how can we make this happen - there's so much goodwill in the community, and so many organisations who would help," she said.

Moneyhad been set aside in this year's budget to undertake urgent repairs and replacements needed before the pools open on December 1, a council officer said.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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