The development of a new swimming complex on the outskirts of Napier has been formally blocked by a city council decision which will send the controversial project back to public consultation.

The decision was made at a council meeting today, accepting a staff recommendation that the council - with a new mayor in former councillor Kirsten Wise, and five new councillors who were not involved in previous decisions - "go back to the community with options as part of the Long Term Plan 2021-2031".

It meets the promise of Wise and several candidates in last year's local body elections, despite a Judge's finding, delivered on April 30, against those involved in a public-initiated judicial review, that the 2016-2019 council had acted properly in reaching previous decisions focusing on a new development costing over $40 million.

The previous council of mayor Bill Dalton decided two years ago to demolish the Onekawa Aquatic Centre off Menin Rd in residential suburb Onekawa and build a new complex on land at the corner of Prebensen and Tamatea drives, between Tamatea and the Pandora industrial area.

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In April last year acting mayor Faye White used a casting vote supporting putting the project out to tender, after a 6-all split at the council table, which also signalled the demise of the centrally-located Onekawa pools, which had opened as the Olympic Pool complex in 1963.

Some groundwork started at the Tamatea site but effectively stalled after the Friends of Onekawa Aquatic Centre, formed to take legal action to block the plan, started a High Court process which ended with the decision delivered by Justice Christine Grice on April 30.

Generations of users loved the Onekawa Aquatic Centre, as highlighted by school children in 2002. Photo / File
Generations of users loved the Onekawa Aquatic Centre, as highlighted by school children in 2002. Photo / File

The tender process has also stopped with the plan having to be revisited because of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on council resources.

Council interim chief executive Keith Marshall said seminars had been held with the new council to discuss the history and background.

Members had expressed the expectation that any decision around expanding the Onekawa complex or to "progress the new pool" be made to ensure "that the whole community is involved in progressing any project in due course even though that might not determine a final option until a future plan."

It was anticipated that there would be no start on a new pool until the 2021-2022 year.

Investigations are now expected to look not only at sites and development but also how to make better use of existing facilities, including Onekawa, Ocean Spa on Marine Parade, and the Greendale pool which is currently being upgraded.