Pools and Schools

16 February 2010

A dramatic growth in demand at city swimming pools has led to a review of how we can use our pool space to give everyone a fair go.

Lane swimming at Freyberg Pool

Lane swimming at Freyberg Pool

Our pools attract at least 1.4 million visits every year, with most congestion happening before work and school, after school and in the evenings.

"There are a few reasons for the leap in demand for our pool space," says the Council's Recreation

Wellington Manager, Julian Todd. "First, there's been a decline in the number of school pools over the past 20 years. In the 80s there were 83 schools in Wellington - 48 of which had a pool. Now, just 22 school pools are left and only 11 are in use. This puts pressure on our pools.

"Second, swim club membership has grown steadily in the last few years."

Julian says a lot of research and planning work has been done over the past few years to accommodate the demand. Councillors are about to make some big decisions about our pools through a comprehensive review that will run alongside our Draft Annual Plan.

During last year's Long-Term Council Community Plan process, councillors agreed to allocate $11 million to pool development over the next 10 years. This year councillors will look at getting all the development work done over the next four years. The proposed work includes:

  • a new teaching pool at Karori Pool for the Learn to Swim programme
  • a new teaching and hydrotherapy pool and waterplay area at Keith Spry Pool in Johnsonville
  • a new hydrotherapy pool at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre (WRAC) - this will allow the existing shared teaching and hydrotherapy pool to be used exclusively for Learn to Swim
  • a new roof and insulation for Tawa Pool
  • the installation of a retractable roof at Thorndon Summer Pool - making it usable all year round.

Two million dollars of that $11 million might also become a fund to encourage schools to keep or renew their existing pools.

"We've done an audit of all the school pools in Wellington, and we'd like to start helping them," says Julian. "Ideally, some of the city's schools would host other schools nearby for their Learn to Swim programmes. This would reduce the pressure on Council pools as well as reducing the time wasted by schools having to ferry pupils to and from pools around the city."

Councillors will also discuss ways to manage pool space more efficiently. This would help the Learn to Swim programmes and make more space for swim clubs.

"So we could end up telling casual lane swimmers they can't swim at WRAC in Kilbirnie between 5.00pm and 7.00pm on weekdays, but that the entire Freyberg Pool will be available for lane swimmers during these times," says Julian.

"We'll detail these proposals on a pool-by-pool basis in the consultation documents. We urge all pool users - whether it's for Learn to Swim, casual lane swimming or swim clubs - to have a detailed look at what we're suggesting and submit their ideas to us."

The review will go out for public consultation in April before being finalised by councillors in June. If the new session times are passed, they would commence on 1 July. For more information, email julian.todd@wcc.govt.nz or phone (04) 499 4444.