Council must support vulnerable, too: Calvert

Physiotherapist Mark Shirley (left) helps client Christopher Matahaere in the physio pool, while physiotherapy student Jess Chicksen supports paraplegic Jim Duncan, who was swimming with his wife, Sue Duncan. Another physio client, Judy Oats, is on the right. Photo by Gregor Richardson
Physiotherapist Mark Shirley (left) helps client Christopher Matahaere in the physio pool, while physiotherapy student Jess Chicksen supports paraplegic Jim Duncan, who was swimming with his wife, Sue Duncan. Another physio client, Judy Oats, is on the right. Photo by Gregor Richardson
Small-spending stalwart Cr Hilary Calvert has emerged an unlikely champion of the Dunedin City Council stepping in to save the city's physio pool.

Council staff are preparing a report on the pool for the next community and environment committee in September. It is possible councillors would consider funding the pool at next year's annual plan hearing.

The financially stretched Southern District Health Board no longer wants to fund the pool, which runs at a $100,000 annual operating shortfall and needs an upgrade costing up to $1 million.

The health board announced this week the pool would close in December, prompting an outcry from pool users, physiotherapists and the wider community.

Of councillors contacted by the Otago Daily Times this week, Cr Calvert was the keenest for the council to take an active role in the pool, including, if necessary, providing operational funding.

Other councillors were either noncommittal or ruled it out because of the council's financial position. Council infrastructure and networks general manager Tony Avery said council staff met the health board and the Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust a couple of weeks ago to discuss the matter.

Mr Avery said he could not pre-empt the view of councillors, but it could be considered in next year's budget hearings.

Cr Calvert said the physio pool was the sort of council spending she supported.

Council spending tended to benefit the young and fit rather than the old, poor and vulnerable, she said. The physio pool was used by some of the most vulnerable and they should be supported.

The already ''seriously busy'' Moana Pool was not as equipped to deal with those who were least mobile and most vulnerable, she said.

''The only reason we don't fund the physio pool now is that somebody has been.''

Council support could include operational funding, while encouraging the pool trust to find additional revenue streams as well.

She suggested the Accident Compensation Corporation could contribute, but the corporation ruled that out yesterday when contacted by the ODT.

The physio pool fitted within the council's responsibilities for community social wellbeing, Cr Calvert said.

She said the community could fundraise for the required upgrade and maybe for some operational funding and she was keen to get involved in that.

Swimming in the pool yesterday with her paraplegic husband Jim Duncan, Sue Duncan said Moana Pool was unsuitable for him to use.

''The disadvantaged are being disadvantaged still further by the decision to close the pool,'' she said. Pool manager Gaye Davies said many swimmers had been asking questions about the possible closure and one had been in tears.

The ODT was contacted by Dunedin physiotherapist Steve August yesterday, who said the pool had rehabilitative facilities that were not available elsewhere in Dunedin.

''It is warmer and quieter than the Moana Pool and slopes from waist-deep to over 3m. ''This means patients can work on rehabilitation in selected degrees of weight-bearing and buoyancy. ''Practical rehabilitation and ongoing self-care of this sort reduces load on the city's hospital and medical facilities.

''I'm appalled at the thought of losing it,'' Mr August said.

Cr Andrew Noone said the council might have a role to play in finding a solution to the pool that did not involve giving money. Cr Neville Peat said giving support was unlikely, and Cr Chris Staynes said the council could not afford it.

Cr Lee Vandervis believed the pool was a central Government responsibility.

Cr Jinty MacTavish and Cr Kate Wilson needed more information before deciding.

Cr Andrew Whiley said the health system was responsible for the pool. Cr Richard Thomson told the ODT on Wednesday it was highly unlikely the council would support the pool.

Cr Thomson, who is also a Southern DHB member, said pool users would have to pay for the pool themselves.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull told the ODT on Wednesday that taking on the pool would be a big ask for the council.

Crs John Bezett, David Benson-Pope, Aaron Hawkins, Doug Hall, and Mike Lord, could not be contacted.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

Thinking in silos is passe

Thinking in Silos is passe. Saying" no, it is not my job" or "we cannot afford it " is lazy and narrowminded. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. This pool is not just a health facility, it is a complex economic social and health facility.

This pool has massive public support and huge social benefits. The people of the city and the city's social fabric are the DCC's concern. What affects citizens, a healthy city and visitors is also the concern of DCC. If it is not, then why live in Dunedin?

Work with the citizens concerns. Work with other stakeholders.  Dunedin City needs to work to keep up, to thrive and be a good place to live. Creative shared thinking, new approaches and shared investment is needed if government is not supportive.  Or roll over and die.

City leaders job must find solutions, lobby and faciliate this!

A fair go for non-elite

I'm pleased I voted for Hilary Calvert: "Of councillors contacted by the Otago Daily Times this week, Cr Calvert was the keenest for the council to take an active role in the pool, including, if necessary, providing operational funding."

If subsidies were removed from professional sports there would be more than enough council money to take on a partnership role in keeping the Physio Pool open and in good repair.  If government chopped its support of elite sports including building facilities and giving free money to yacht racers that would help. Strictly speaking, Lee Vandervis is correct: "Cr Lee Vandervis believed the pool was a central Government responsibility."


Cr Calvert sees it clearly and tells it like it is: "The disadvantaged are being disadvantaged still further by the decision to close the pool," she said.

As predicted

As I predicted in another thread, the likely outcome of this is yet another item that should be covered by cental government falling on local government. What do we pay taxes for if not healthcare? What did the government say they were selling assets for? That's right, schools and hospitals, but they want to debt fund the rebuild of Dunedin's hospital (And the upgrade of the pool should be part of that) and then make the cash strapped DHB find $20 million a year to pay for it.

Taxes cover healthcare not rates. Taxes spent on the Americas Cup team recently could have funded  this for 50 years. Taxes given to Tiwai Smelter to stay open 1 extra year could have funded this for 300years. $100,000 in a budget of over $600 million For the DHB is peanuts. I bet they are spending a lot more than that renovating Waikari so the admin staff can, yet again, move locations and have new offices.

This equates to half a dozen mid range electric wheelchairs (possibly less), 1-2 housing or vehicle modifications  etc, yet benefits vastly more people.

If the council does support this good on 'em. This sort of project, considering what they spend on other things, is a no-brainer but remember people come the election. This is definitely Central Goverment a responsibilty and the chronic underfunding of the DHB for the region is the direct cause of cases like this happening.  

Good on you Hilary

Just tell your fellow DCC council members that injured professional rugby players could use the pool and they will throw millions at it, each year. They cannot have a double standard over user pays, ie the FSB stadium. Either rugby pays the full cost for the use to the stadium and that includes the gate fees or we start supporting other activities like the physio pool.

Dunedin's future

Dunedin has a golden opportunity here. Any councillor with a vision for Dunedin will see that the upgrade of the University and the hospital is a once in a generation chance to save Dunedin's economy. We have the only Dental School in the country, we have a Medical School, we have an emerging biotech industry, we have a Physio pool. We could have more high value, meaningful jobs. Accommodation could be supported year round, not just in one off pulses. Australians, Americans and Chinese could fly in for medical treatment. They could stroll in our wonderful gardens, walk our beaches, support our shops and help save our airport. Europe has a long history of heath spa retreats. Medical tourism is booming. This pool is part of our point of difference. Closing it is economic sabotage.

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