There has been quite some discussion lately about Napier City Council's decision to move the Napier Aquatic Centre to a new location, off Prebensen Drive.

What's wrong with the old site, some people say? How much is it going to cost? Why can't we have a 50m pool? More on that later.

First, a little background.

After council adopted the Napier Aquatic Strategy in 2015, two independent consultants were brought in to assess developing the facility at its current Onekawa site. They concluded there were significant risks with the Onekawa location, which led us to look at alternatives.


The main risk they found was the release of possible contaminants from the old landfill the current facility is built upon.

Council also decided to go with a 25m pool when a new 50m pool was confirmed for the Hastings Regional Sports Park – we think there's little point in having two pools that length when one will meet our region's high performance training and long course needs.

Sport New Zealand agrees. They're also happy with our decision to take a closer look at developing a new aquatic facility off Prebensen Drive.

It doesn't mean we can't have a 50m pool later – the 25m pool design we are looking at is capable of being extended, if there is the demand for it.

Moving to a new site means current pool users and the wider community won't be without a facility during the estimated 18-20 month construction period.

We're already pushed to fit in all the individuals, learn to swim, competitive and recreational swimmers who currently use Onekawa as it is, so having it out of action for so long would have serious consequences.

The Napier Aquahawks Committee have told us they support council's plan, and look forward to working with council as the project progresses.

After the new facility opens, Onekawa will be re-purposed into a new recreational space. This will likely see the splash pads remain and more activities added, such as a pump bike track, playground, climbing frames, and more open space.


There have also been some inaccuracies circulating in the community about what we're trying to do.

Why demolish Onekawa pools? The pool has just been strengthened.
If the earthquake strengthening work hadn't been carried out on the building housing the main indoor pool, spa pools and learners' pool, we would have had to shut down it two years ago.

Onekawa is the community's sports hub.
Yes, the current site has pools, netball/tennis courts and Omnigym, but there are other businesses there which are not recreation related. And there isn't a lot of space. The Prebsensen Drive site is 7ha, providing much greater potential to create a recreation hub. It also has the added bonus of being close to Park Island.

Why move it away from schools?
There are other schools which will be closer. Moving a facility will always have those that benefit, and those that don't, from a distance perspective.

The site is next to a 100km/h expressway.
No, it isn't. Access will be from Tamatea Drive, which is a 50km/h zone. We know 91 per cent of users currently drive to the facility. There is an iWay pathway near the site currently, but we will be considering foot and cycle traffic as part of the project.

The whole community should be able to access aquatic facilities. The current site is on a bus route.
The proposed site is 3.2km away from the current site. There's little difference in the size of the population living within a 3km radius of both areas, and there is large population growth closer to the new site. From discussions with Hawke's Bay Regional Council, which manage the bus routes, there is a willingness to work to make any required changes to routes and stops.

The proposed facility, based on Christchurch's new QEII facility, is too small and will need immediate expansion.
No, it won't. The new design will reflect an increase from 11 to 15 lanes, 17 if you include those reserved for hydrotherapy, plus a 32-seat spa pool, there's a huge increase in the size and features of leisure and play space. Providing too much pool space that will be unused for the majority of time adds significant cost to both the build and operating costs, increasing the burden on ratepayers.

If you'd like to know more about the redevelopment, go to #talkaquatic

• Keith Price is a Napier city councillor