A dream of ages to have an international class 50-metre swimming pool in Hawke's Bay is to be reached within two years after an announcement of up to $32 million worth of backing from the Government.
The pool, along with a 25-metre learn-to-swim pool, which will also be available for other use such as water polo, will be a part of the Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park on the outskirts of Hastings.
The announcement of the funding was made by Napier MP and Minister for Small Business Stuart Nash at a fitness centre open day on Sunday.
In a statement, Nash and Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson said up to $32m had been approved in principle for what was one of the "shovel-ready" proposals put forward by local councils, iwi and community groups.
"The Hawke's Bay Aquatic Centre will play a big part in the economic recovery of the region," Robertson said.
"It is just the sort of project that our Covid Response and Recovery Fund is designed for. The Aquatic Centre meets both social and economic objectives as we recover from the impact of Covid-19."
Nash said it's expected to "directly generate" about 166 jobs and support hundreds of others.
Driven by benefactor and now Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust chairman Sir Graeme Avery, the centre was built at a cost of $15m and opened in July last year, with dreams of further development, including the pools, and a hostel, for which $5m of Government funding was announced last month.
A pool had been a dream of the Hastings District Council since early in its planning for the park, in a corner block bounded by the Hawke's Bay Expressway and Evenden and Percival roads.
It already includes an international-class athletics track and grandstand, first used in 2010 and built to replace the facilities at the former Nelson Park, which was closed to make way for a retail shopping development.
With resource consents in place planning for the pools development can start immediately, says Sir Graeme, with the "Olympic" pool hopefully in use by 2022.
Sir Graeme says the addition of the aquatic centre to the fitness centre and the regional sports park is a "game-changer" for Hawke's Bay and likely to attract athletes for both competition and elite training.
It is the second major pool funding announced for the Hawke's Bay/Gisborne Tairawhiti region in less than a fortnight, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern having on July 14 announced $40m of Government support for redevelopment of the Gisborne Olympic Pool complex.
Among those present for the announcement was Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise, who says the development will take care of the needs of the swimming clubs and competitors, and will open the way for her council to reconsider controversial multimillion-dollar proposals for Napier aquatic facilities in terms of what the city needs in a leisure and recreational complex.
Her council is going back to public consultation after the shelving of plans for a new complex off Prebensen Drand closing of the long-standing and more-central Onekawa Aquatic Centre, but it won't return to the agenda until next year.