Almost 500 people turned out for a public meeting about a proposed public pool in Kerikeri.

Thursday night's meeting filled the Turner Centre Plaza and drew roughly one in every 10 people living in the town.

The meeting was called by the Mid North Aquatic and Fitness Facility Committee to update townsfolk on the group's progress in establishing an indoor swimming complex.

Kerikeri's current public pool is unheated, open in summer only, and - because it is on high school grounds - closed to the public during school hours.

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The group has been working on the proposal for the past two years.

At Thursday's meeting the committee revealed its preferred location was on Kerikeri High School's hockey field, between the New World supermarket and the school rugby field. The land is owned by the Ministry of Education.

Committee member Liz Kingsford said the school was open to the idea and would put the existing pool area to another use if the new complex went ahead. The field would have to be transferred to the Far North District Council. The committee had looked at many locations around Kerikeri but to have any chance of getting funding the pool would have to be built on public land. That had narrowed the options down to the hockey field, the Kerikeri Sports Complex and the Bay of Islands Golf Club.

The hockey field was the front-runner for its central location, proximity to other recreational facilities, and ease of walking access. It was also the best site for a combined gym and pool. Committee member John Sanderson said adding a gym was a "no-brainer" because its income could be used to offset the pool's operating costs.

At 7100sq m the hockey field would be a tight fit - the ideal area was about 10,000sq m - but the main disadvantage was vehicle access. The site is bordered by the Domain, high school and supermarket, so the only road access would be via Wendywood Lane.

The committee has now started a three-month consultation exercise to find out what locals want in a pool complex and how much extra they would be prepared to pay in rates.

The proposal is for a 25m eight-lane lap pool, a learners' pool, and a family pool possibly including a lazy river and a spa, costing $12-13 million. The council is proposing an $8 million alternative.

While the meeting was strongly behind a new pool there were questions about the location.

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Kerikeri resident Wayne Maday asked what would happen to the redwood trees in the path of any road access, and what would be done to safeguard elderly pedestrians.

Terry Quinlan, of Opito Bay, said the field was also used for football, with Kerikeri players already short of five fields.