The Napier City Council is considering closing the Onekawa Pools and moving its Napier aquatic facilities to the outskirts of Tamatea.
Its intention is to replicate a design that has been built in Christchurch to replace the earthquake damaged QE11 pool facilities.
I cannot support either of those options for the following reasons.
Firstly the location. Why would you close the current facility that has a value of $7 million and bulldoze the buildings? The Ivan Wilson pool building which is only 20 years old has just been earthquake strengthened and now has a seismic rating of 90 per cent. (At a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.)
I certainly don't support moving it away from Napier's struggling suburbs, whose residents, according to local community leaders, will struggle with transport to the new proposed site.
Why any council would encourage children to cross the 100km/h expressway is beyond me.
Modern aquatic facilities are set up as sports hubs: moving a standalone site away from its current hub with gymnastics and netball is a backward step.
Secondly the design. We know that there isn't enough water space in Napier and we need to meet that deficit and plan for future needs. Napier's predicted growth over the next 30 years is expected to be in the young Maori and elderly demographic. The QE11 Christchurch model only caters for the elderly portion of the proposed growth. The QE11 model has little in the way of excitement for youth, no rope swings or bombing pool (these days bombs are known as "Manu's"). Other pools such as the AC Baths in Taupo and the Gisborne pools have these setups.
It doesn't cater for school swimming sports or swim club days as it has no seating.
When the council consulted Napier residents two options were given - the QE11 model at the Tamatea location or an upgrade at Onekawa. But what if we had combined the best of both. Take the good parts of the QE11 model and combine them at the current Onekawa site/ retaining the Ivan Wilson pool space and outdoor area. That way we wouldn't wipe out $15.1m of ratepayer assets before the build is even started. ($7 million for the current facility plus $8.1 million in lost residential sections).
No matter what, the facility will need to be Hawke's Bay's premier indoor aquatic complex as Splash Planet is closed for 7 months of the year. Families will travel from both cities if the facility is fun and exciting for all ages.
I have been working with various like minded people who feel the same as I do and have started to look at other pool layouts at the Onekawa site. Plans that combine the best of both options and allow for the future expansion.
So considering the money involved and other options available surely looking at the combined option at Onekawa needs some serious consideration before spending $41.3 million and the loss of additional $15.1 million of ratepayer assets from the loss of residential sections, and bulldozing the current facility.