With Covid-19 forcing a delay to the opening of the new Cambridge swimming pool until after summer, leisure swim space for the majority of the inland Waikato region is under pressure.
The much-anticipated pool which began construction in April last year is 70 per cent complete, but construction issues, exacerbated by the pandemic, mean Waipa District Council is now hoping the pool will be open to the public by March 2021.
And while beaches such as Raglan and Tauranga are nearby, a Hamilton city councillor is calling the lack of another swim space in the Waikato region for summer a disappointment.
"This just emphasises what I have previously said about swimming facilities in Hamilton and the Waikato. We just do not have enough leisure swim space," councillor Mark Bunting said.
"I've talked with clubs and they seem to be fine lane wise, but leisure swimmers and kids learning to swim are still the main areas of concern.
"We are an inland city in Hamilton and much of the Waikato is also inland, we should be putting an emphasis on creating incredible swim facilities here."
The Waikato district has three community swimming pools located in Ngaruawahia, Huntly and Tuakau, while in Hamilton there are a number of school swimming pools for hire, along with Waterworld, Gallaghers Swimming Pool and Waikato Universities.
In Matamata and Piako there are also three more pools in Morrinsville, Matamata and Te Aroha.
Bunting said the problem with some of the pools such as the University of Waikato, the Lido outdoor pool at Waterworld, is that they are seasonal pools and cannot be used during a large chunk of the year.
"If we could stick a roof over the Lido or do something to make the Waikato University pool open all year, then that is another extra 50 metres of pool space. We simply need to do better.
"I've had positive comments over the last two weeks about increasing swimming space so now we actually have to turn that support into action and seeing what we can do to address the issue."
The news comes as a Waikato Regional Council committee has also said new legislation needs to be brought in to enable swimming to be banned in the Aratiatia rapids, a popular summer time spot, in response to calls that it will prevent further deaths.
Rachael de Jong, 21, was swept to her death on Waitangi Day in 2017 in the Waikato River when the floodgates of the Aratiatia Dam were opened. There are fears more people will die unless more is done to stop people still swimming there despite a raft of deterrents being put in place.
The Cambridge pool project has experienced significant setbacks and challenges since its construction started in December 2018.
Waipa District Council mayor Jim Mylchreest said the 2020 construction season had been "one setback after another", causing delays and increased costs.
"There has been a lot of challenges, some of which could have been anticipated and some not. These have been made much worse by Covid which saw work come to a halt for five weeks in April with ongoing impacts ever since.
"We've had building materials delayed from both local and international suppliers," he said. "On top of that, there was unexpected work required on the existing outdoor 50m pool, and contractors were forced to grapple with a natural spring that appeared by the toddler pool.
"Groundwater issues have also wreaked havoc due to revised programming and scheduling of works as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown."
Even at alert level 3, regulations required contractors and subcontractors to work in different zones and bubbles, which had a massive impact on productivity.
"Alert level 2 also requires physical distancing, and in this type of build there is very little difference between alert level 2 and 3 restrictions.
"Our contractors were making good progress, but with loss of productivity, and groundwater increased during autumn and winter, that's pushed out works across the site," he said.
"There's been a chain of interlinked events which have combined to make things worse. It's the last thing any of us wanted but it is what it is and we just have to be upfront, tell people and deal with it."
On a positive note, streetscaping works have been completed on Williamson St with only final asphalt yet to do.
The current Cambridge pool budget sits at $23 million, almost $1.7 million over budget, which has been included in council's current annual plan.
It includes the construction of the facility, design and project management costs, but will not account for any further restrictions imposed on-site due to Covid lockdown.
"We are hoping for favourable weather over the next few months, and we can minimise disruption to works on-site as a result of Covid-19 alert levels. But that's out of our hands and I'm reluctant to provide an opening date that can't be delivered," Mylchreest said.
Once construction is completed, the pool will be handed over to Go Waipā for fit out and commissioning. This will include installation of furniture, fittings and equipment, and training for staff.
Fifty to 60 jobs will be created including lifeguards, swimming instructors and management and administrative staff.
Once completed, the new pool complex will include an upgrade of the existing 50m outdoor pool, a new 25m 10-lane indoor pool and learner's / hydrotherapy pool, spa and sauna and a children's splash pad.
"This is going to be a high quality complex and a fantastic asset for our community to enjoy for generations," said Mylchreest.