The search for an option to boost the number of Maori and Chinese children using swimming pools in South Auckland has been put off due to a lack of money.

At a meeting of Auckland Council's environment and community committee this month, councillors were asked to come up with a preferred option to increase the numbers.

Council staff recommended that swimming programmes for children aged 16 and under in Howick and Manurewa schools with high Maori and Chinese rolls should be subsidised to combat the decline.

But a lack of money meant the status quo will remain until the council puts together its next budget.


A new regionwide pricing policy giving free access to children 16 years and under established in 2013 caused a decrease in swimming pool visits in Howick and Manurewa, areas which had brought in adult charges. There was a "further inequitable impact on Maori and Chinese people" after the introduction of the policy, according to a report prepared by council officers.

A council impact assessment found mixed results of the regionwide pricing policy.

Maori users fell from 14 to 12 per cent, while the number of Chinese users halved from 10 to 5 per cent across the Auckland region.

Council staff attributed the drop to the introduction of adult user charges at facilities that previously had free admittance.

The council report found that the user charges for adults at both Lloyd Elsmore pool in Howick and Manurewa pool were "a barrier to participation of children and adults".

Local body politician and Chinese community leader Susan Zhu told the Herald she believed participation numbers had fallen because Chinese parents were more likely to enrol their children in private swimming lessons.

"Once they master the life skill, they stop going," she said.

Zhu said generally Chinese people in Auckland were becoming less inclined to use public swimming pools for recreation.


Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board chairwoman Lemauga Sosene spoke at the council meeting when the decision to defer any action was made, and told the Herald she was disappointed at the lack of consultation.

"We didn't feel that we were consulted in terms of the research that Auckland Council officers had done. We presented because we felt that our comments weren't included, which was disappointing."

Sosene said her board was surprised that council staff had come to the conclusion that the number of Maori and Chinese children using swimming pools needed to be increased.

"One of the things we did say is that officers need to consult local boards who are close to the ground.

"We understand our communities and sometimes we understand it better than the governing board because we do so much work day-in and day-out with our communities.

"What we were saying is that we have a view that hasn't been consulted.

"Our board was saying how can you target that [group in] particular, what about the other groups right throughout Auckland?"

Sosene said the targeted rate used by the Mangere-Otahuhu and Otara-Papatoetoe Local Boards encouraged swimming pool participation. The report prepared by council officers acknowledged that participation did not decline in pools where the local board had introduced a targeted rate to cover adult entry.

Sosene said ratepayers contribute an additional $31 in their rates bill to cover the cost of using pools.

"Sure you can target Maori and Chinese, but we feel we have a really good solution in Mangere-Otahuhu that covers the communitywide."