You use it, you pay

Richard Thomson
Richard Thomson
Dunedin physio pool users will have to pay the cost if they want to keep the pool open.

Southern District Health Board member Richard Thomson made the comment yesterday when contacted about the announcement the historic Otago Therapeutic Pool will close in December.

''I'd be very happy for the physio pool to stay open, but the people who are using it would have to be funding it.''

He hoped the trust found an alternative financial structure to enable the ''wonderful facility'' to survive.

The board was struggling to provide essential services and could no longer support the physio pool.

Mr Thomson, who is also a Dunedin city councillor, said it was ''highly unlikely'' the city would agree to step in and support another pool.

The Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust, which operates the pool for the public, hopes to persuade board members to overrule board managers, who this week confirmed the closure.

It is also hoping the city council might be able to help.

Mr Thomson said while he would listen to the trust's case, for him it was about priorities, and how the board could justify the spending.

As well as funding a $100,000 annual operating shortfall, the board says it is faced with a pool upgrade of up to $1 million.

''I can't justify a million dollars of capital expenditure when we have [hospital] buildings that leak and inadequate facilities and we're constantly having to reprioritise essential medical equipment.

''We've got immediate health benefit that we have to provide which we're struggling to provide because of funding, and I just can't justify that when there are alternative pools in the city.''

Asked if he agreed with critics that the closure was shortsighted, Mr Thomson said that was an ''easy comment to throw about''.

''Let me put it another way. Should we deprive other people of medical interventions that they need now in order to assist some people to achieve some health benefit at that pool when there are other pools available?''

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said supporting the pool would be a ''big ask'' for the council, and he agreed with Mr Thomson it was unlikely.

However, it would be considered. Casual visits to the pool cost $6.

The story in yesterday's ODT was shared hundreds of times on social media, and drew a sharply critical reaction from readers.

Some readers said the closure of the pool could lengthen rehabilitation from injury, which would end up costing more in future hospital admissions.

Dunedin National list MP Michael Woodhouse, when contacted through his office in Wellington yesterday, refused to be interviewed, directing questions to the health board.

Dunedin North Labour MP Dr David Clark said the closure reflected continuing pressure on the board to cut costs.

Physio pool

One of the key issues that never seems to get raised or discussed is as to the focus of our health care system.

So many of the decisions that are being made seem to have lost sight of the fact that health services are about people as individuals, not about the system

No matter how we slice it and dice it the physio pool is as much a part of our health care services as is our hospital. It's here, it is a reality. So closing the pool makes as much sense as saying we will close the operating theatres. It is part of core services.

There is sound evidence to show that up to 30% of all health care expenditure is wasted. This occurs for multiple reasons that are also well researched.

Whole of system approaches as opposed to our present system centric model produce a win win for patients funders and our society in general.

As a DHB Board member for 9 tears from 2001 to 2010 I find it extraordinary that Richard Thomson was prepared to vociferously (and correctly) advocate for the retention of Neurosurgery in Dunedin but is not prepared to make the the same effort to save an equally vital service now - is this a change of position is it simply that this is not a local-body election year?

Physio Pool

Although born and bred in Dunedin and having lived there for more than 45 years I still love the city. I am appalled at the changes that have occurred since my family and I left 8 years ago. This government clearly does not care about Dunedin and its residents, and has allowed the city to all but die.
The stadium (that should never have been built), the ongoing restructuring at AgResearch in Invermay (and the appalling treatment of staff there), and the closure of Hillside (and the continual failures of Chinese built railway stock) are just some of the examples of this government's bias against Dunedin (almost always a Labour stronghold, of course) and its people.

The latest salvo from Richard Thomson, to me, is the last straw. What Thomson deliberately fails to mention is that many users of the pool have serious and ongoing medical issues that are greatly helped by the very high temperature of the pool (other pools are simply too cold), and the supportive environment that is offered by the pool and its wonderful staff.

The people of Dunedin now know what to do - vote Thomson off the council at the next election. If he believes so passionately in user pays then on that basis most of Dunedin's ratepayers have ever right to refuse to subsidise the stadium (if I still lived in Dunedin I would deduct the stadium subsidy from my quarterly rates bills) because they do not use it. [Abridged]

Physio pool

It is all very well for Mr Thomson to say that we the swimmers who use the pool will have to pay for it when there is only a few months to realise the shortfall. When the Trustees knew two years ago that this might be the outcome then that would have been the time to let everyone know the situation so that something could be done.

In 2004 I broke three vertebrae in my back along with a broken collar bone and a few fractured ribs. I spent two weeks in hospital and two weeks at Isis to teach me to walk again. Once I was home, a taxi collected me daily, to take me to the Physio Pool and through aqua jogging I gradually gained mobility. The pain was less when I was in the water too. Now I use the pool to keep fit and aqua jog there every second day for at least 65 minutes. Many others use the pool during the day and those who come outside of the physio sessions usually find benefit in the warm waters of the pool for pain, sore muscles and a variety of conditions.

The water is too cold at Moana Pool and for many of us who have injuries, or disabilities, the ability to get into the diving pool or the aqua jogging pool is not easy there. In fact it can be quite frightening.

One suggestion to come from a swimmer tonight was to seek sponsorship, from about six to ten businesses, to cover the yearly running costs of the pool. A large advertising board for each business who sponsored the pool could be erected on the walls of the pool. Please help us save our pool. We need it. It has been an essential part of rehabilitative care for many years. It is an essential amenity and once lost would cost far more to replace than the amount which is being asked at present.

I invite Mr Thomson to come and use the pool as well as the Trustees so they can feel the benefits of the facility they so carelessly wish to dispense with. People from all walks of life, including city councillors use this pool. Help us save the Physio Pool, not just for ourselves but for future generations.



User pays

Disgusting hypocrisy but some commentators. As pointed out by other posts, user pays only applies to certain things not others.

User pays

I don't use the library very often. Like Dpet, I don't use the skateboard park, I don't use the cycle lanes, or the physio pool but I am damn sure that I don't want to live in a city that does not have these things.  To paraphrase Frank,  what is a city?  What has it got?  If not these things, then, it is not.


Raymondo12: How are the people who benefit from this facility "irresponsible"? Most are recovering from debilitating conditions. I would love to know how I am "irresponsible" for having a stroke. One gentleman who is there about the same time as me trying to mitigate his MS so he can continue working his farm etc. I sincerely hope you never have to find out just what a benefit a place like this is 

Dog parks

Someone mentioned above about not wanting to pay for the maintenence & running costs of the dog parks we have in Dunedin. The dog parks' costs are covered by the dog registration fees.  I do use the cycle lanes, rarely visit Moana Pool, have never been inside the stadium (I couldn't afford to pay for a ticket), but I am still required to pay for all these expenses in the rates I pay. 

Sums it up

Heres a link to a ODT story that sums it up better than I could.

User pays is the way to go

Why should we pay for other irresponsible people all the time? I am sick of it.


Terry: I might be wrong but i believe the water is heated by the hospital's boiler system.

Physio pool running costs

An approach to a electricity supply company might get a subsidised rate to help keep it open. Worth a shot.



Use it, pay for it

Does the same apply to the stadium Mr Thomson? We'll see if you support reasonable action when the DCC report on the staduim comes out. Maybe you'll make the same statement. Looking  forward to that.

This pool's of far greater value and worth. People benefit from it and want it kept open.

This government doesn't care about Dunedin.  Woodhouse who?

DCC pool access

Strangely, there's something of an inverse relationship between being a ratepayer, i.e. being older, and getting decent, enjoyable access to a council pool.

Older and disabled users mainly just need safe, comfortable  (warm), accessible pool-space and that is currently in very short supply. Certainly there is nothing purpose-built and planned for older users as there is for the young.

A strong case can be made that whether the Physio Pool closes or not, (but particularly if it does) the DCC should thoroughly investigate the recreational needs of older and/or disabled swimmers and pool-users. Their needs should be balanced with the needs of school children and competitive or fitness-training swimmers, especially considering the increasing number of aging baby-boomers. 

I made this suggestion in an Annual Plan submission years ago and got blown off with the argument that aqua-jog lanes (in the dive pool with all its disadvantages of cold water, great depth, not that easy access) and aqua-cise classes were enough for older people.



Surely there are funding avenues for the Board to investigate. 44,000 people per year that used the pool. It's obviously a facility that is used.


Highlanders could use it

Just explain to the DCC it will be good for injured professional rugby players and they will throw bucket loads of cash at it.

Work together

Yes we all understand the pressure on the health dollar. Rehabilitation and the flow-on from this is what the physio pool provides. This is socially and medically smart health care. The health and social outcomes that cannot be easily achieved elsewhere.The cost to NZ of not doing for people what the pool provides will be more than the cost of upgrading this pool and keeping it operational.
$1 million is not a lot of money compared to the value of the benefits if you do the maths. The savings to WINZ, ACC, Aged Care, disability services etc will be more than the cost of fixing this. Those other services that have to pick up the pieces for failed rehabilitation , recovery and community integration.
The fact that this pool is siloed into "healthcare" makes the pool a SDHB facility and easy for them to dump as budgets tighten. It also means it is easy for other agencies to just walk away as it is not their concern. How dumb. Old, bad thinking.
The $1 million needed for the upgrade could be funded via SDHB , DCC, Ngai Tahu, the university, Lottery Grants Board, public fundraising, donations, bequests, small rates levy for future upkeep etc. This has happened to upgrade and protect heritage, theatres, stadia and other facilities or Investments used by the wider community. Annual running costs of $100,000 can be covered by a user charge and donations.
Save this physio pool - it is a vital community and health facility - or beware and be accountable. [Abridged]


I don't use... lanes or dog parks ever or the library very often anymore. I don't want to pay for those in any way. User pays, huh? OK, that's fine. So it follows that a non-user pays nothing? Good, that's settled then. I expect a much lower rates bill and I can spend that money only on things I use. Or just maybe we could just move the physio pool to the stadium, then it won't matter what it costs or if anyone uses it, it will have lots of dollars thrown at it....


Councillor Thompson makes his policy position on this facility clear:

"'I'd be very happy for the physio pool to stay open, but the people who are using it would have to be funding it.''

This is an excellent and logical policy position taken by Cr. Thompson.  But only if he applies it consistently to all users of sports and thrapeutic facilites. So let's try this one:

''I'd be very happy for the Forsyth Barr Stadium to stay open, but the people who are using it would have to be funding it.''

How about it Cr. Thompson? And if you're not up for applying your new policy to this far more expensive and supposedly primarily commercial sporting facility that is primarily for the use of healthy people - why not? 


Double standards

The same principle of 'you use it, you pay' does not apply to the rugby world, of course. Oh no siree.


A good example of the board's thinking. Mr Thompson clearly thinks a clinical, treatment, patient, disability place of recovery is not a priority compared with spending  on a (mis)communication department which has grown in size while communication declines.

A short sighted opinion that reflects the current DHB focus.

As a DCC councillor I would also exspect Mr Thompson to declare a conflict of interest and not have any involvement if the DCC are approached for funding. 

Other pools?

I do not know of any other pools that are heated to the same temperature as the physio pool. This is one of the major benefits for frail older people and the injured when recovering. Citizens can go to a pool that is specifically for physiotherapy instead of the public, sometimes embarrassing, and always just tolerable temperature wise public pools such as Moana. If the government was in the middle of selling our assets to foreign buyers then they would have been jumping up and down yelling “this is just the type of thing we need the
money to invest in” Come to think of it, didn’t we sell our country’s energy assets for much needed health infrastructure? Again I say, was that to fund the tax cuts for the wealthy and nothing more? In our turbo-charged economy we can’t afford to maintain our hospitals. As Mr Thompson says  “The board was[is]struggling to provide essential services”. The pool upgrade of up to $1 million is a handy excuse and I think most would be fine with the pool the way it is till a better government comes around.


Pool user.

Par for the course

This seems just about par for the course with Mr Woodhouse. Despite his claims to be Dunedin's National MP he seems to be missing in action whenever there's a chance to go to bat for actual people who live in Dunedin.

National has stripped jobs and services from Dunedin since they came to power and Mr Woodhouse has been an enthusiastic supporter. As a previous supporter of the for-profit medical system I just don't think he cares unless someone's making a profit. Otherwise he wouldn't be hiding from the press in an election year.

Mr Thomson's short sightedness continues to astound. How much more will his board have to pay for rehabilitation services?  The board is poor because of the millions lots from the Swann debacle, which happened on his watch - now he's on the DCC and is pouring millions of good dollars after bad into DVML when instead he could simply be demanding that rugby should pay enough for the stadium's use so that the city has money for far more important things like public health.

The city pays millions for playing fields for amateur rugby. That's a good thing for public health. I don't see why they shouldn't pay similar amounts for facilities for older and disabled people too - it's not just high school kids that need exercise facilities. In fact they already have them at their schools, and rugby is not special. 

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