They voted to go back to the drawing board to look at all the options for managing the aquatic centre, but in the end Rotorua Lakes Council settled on its original decision.

Rotorua Aquatic Centre has been surrounded by controversy since the council announced plans to partner with Community Leisure Management (CLM) over its management late last year.

Earlier this year aquatic centre staff were allowed to compile and present an alternative proposal after the Amalgamated Workers Union complained to the Employment Relations Authority that the process of engagement with the union had been inadequate.

Then in February the full council voted to go back to the drawing board and consider all the options to manage the centre.

An independent panel was also tasked with reviewing options for management and the panel's findings were brought before the council today.

The Rotorua Lakes Council voted to outsource management of the aquatic centre. Photo / File
The Rotorua Lakes Council voted to outsource management of the aquatic centre. Photo / File

The only change was to include an exit provision to allow the council to cancel the contract, "should it prove an impediment to redevelopment or attracting an external investment".

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Sport New Zealand's community sport, spaces and places lead, Jamie Delich presented to the council on behalf of the panel.

He said the panel supported the proposal to use an external provider.

The panel's report, Future management of the Rotorua Aquatic Centre, looked at whether all management options had been properly considered and the implications of external management on future development opportunities.

"We did go back to the start, we reviewed all the relevant information, and the baseline of the desire to assess the management options and if they had been given due process and consideration," Delich told the council.

"We believe the processes were robust and the information provided by the consultancy was complete and adequately demonstrated a need for change.

Sport New Zealand's community sport, spaces and places lead, Jamie Delich who was on an independent panel. Photo / Ben Fraser
Sport New Zealand's community sport, spaces and places lead, Jamie Delich who was on an independent panel. Photo / Ben Fraser

"The independent panel supports the previous decision of council to move to an external provider."

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After receiving the findings the council voted to conclude negotiations with CLM for management of the centre, essentially returning to the decision it made to partner with them late last year with minor amendments. The decision was made eight votes to three.

Speaking at the meeting, councillor Peter Bentley said the situation was embarrassing.

"This means to me this council has admitted it doesn't know how to run an aquatic centre, doesn't know how to employ staff of suitable competence to work it. I find that quite embarrassing."

But other councillors said CLM would bring valuable expertise to the centre.

"We're talking about running an aquatic centre and we have a company that has a proven track record of doing that," councillor Charles Sturt said.

Councillor Karen Hunt said she believed the decision was the right one.

"I don't believe that more of the same is an option at all. We've struggled with management ... this is an opportunity to provide a well-managed centre, by people who know what they are doing."

Mayor Steve Chadwick said she was confident in the council's decision.

"I felt very confident even in November and I felt confident about it because this is an asset that we all love but we knew that we could raise the bar. It wasn't about poor management, it was about doing better and getting professional expertise in beside us."

After the meeting, Amalgamated Workers Union Rotorua representative Robert Popata told Rotorua Daily Post the workers were disappointed but relieved a decision had been made.

"When a company comes in and says we can save your company, usually it's at the workers' expense. And I can't see how they are going to save money without reducing the staff hours of work.

"We are disappointed and surprised."

Popata said the union was already in discussions with workers and would talk to CLM.

He said the centre staff were happy to see a final decision.

"It's gone on for a long time. They put their case forward as best they could and they are just as happy to see a decision has been made because they can move on with their lives."

Speaking to the Rotorua Daily Post after the meeting, CLM chief executive Craig Carter said the company was pleased with the decision and looking forward to working alongside the community.

He said the company planned to engage with the community and ask what it wanted to see in the facility.

"It's not about taking over, it's about working alongside.

"We're looking to grow and build programmes. We're really looking forward to the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and add value and get more people through the facility."

How they voted
For: Mayor Steve Chadwick, deputy mayor Dave Donaldson, and councillors Karen Hunt, Trevor Maxwell, Tania Tapsell, Rob Kent, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, and Charles Sturt.
Against: Councillors Raj Kumar, Mark Gould and Peter Bentley.