Outcry over pool closure

The Wanaka community pool. Photo from ODT files.
The Wanaka community pool. Photo from ODT files.
Swimmers are venting their frustrations over the closure of Wanaka's community pool and demanding answers from the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

The council closed the pool indefinitely on Friday after receiving a structural assessment of the building, which found it was at only 20% of the required standard for earthquake safety.

The pool was engineered by Southland designer Tony Major, who was expelled from the Institution of Professional Engineers for incompetence last week after the Southland Stadium, which he engineered, collapsed in a heavy snowstorm in 2010.

Since the announcement, the QLDC Facebook page has been inundated with comments from upset residents.

Some have called for the council to immediately include a new pool in its Wanaka Sports Facility plans and ditch a proposed pool upgrade, while others demanded alternative swimming services in the interim.

Quentin Smith said the closure must be the incentive to get the sports centre under way immediately.

''As of today, the QLDC officially provide zero indoor sports facilities or venues in Wanaka and no outdoor court sports facilities of any type. This surely is the catalyst for Wanaka to get the facilities it deserves,'' Mr Smith wrote.

Oliver Young agreed, and said the council had an obligation to provide a pool, so children of the area could learn to swim.

''This is going to have a disastrous effect on so many people within our community; those who make their living at the pool, the competitive athletes both professional and aspiring youth, all those athletes training for their personal goal of Challenge Wanaka, all those using swimming for recovery from injuries or the many who find swimming a great way to keep fit,'' Mr Young wrote.

Before the building's safety concerns came to light, QLDC staff had been investigating the cost of upgrading the pool and adding a learners' pool rather than building a new pool as part of the new Wanaka Sports Facility at the Three Parks subdivision.

''All those options will have to be reassessed now, and that will take a little time,'' the council said on the site.

Amanda Grace said professional athletes in Wanaka depended on the facility for their careers and many had races booked abroad with strict training regimes.

''I'm sure the news of this will be very upsetting. Can you please advise an alternative location for their swim training,'' Ms Grace wrote.

The QLDC replied: ''We can't tell people where to train, but the nearest public pools are Cromwell and Frankton.''

Jen Parr asked if the council would provide a shuttle to get Wanaka residents, including children and people without cars, to those facilities.

Council staff ''haven't worked through all the options yet'', the QLDC responded.

Bernie Hewson was ''really upset'' to read the news.

''In the last three-four months I have swum regularly in the Wanaka pool to help with debilitating arthritis. It has been a huge help to both my physical and mental health ... I can't afford the time of 35 minutes each way to the Cromwell pool, let alone the diesel ...

''What are our options QLDC? Is the council going to provide fuel vouchers for swimmers to travel to Cromwell?''

The QLDC said it ''can't promise that the council will use ratepayer funds to subsidise people's trips to Cromwell''.

Some of the posts to the page asked what would happen to the pool staff.

The QLDC said the workers were the first to be told of the closure and their situation was ''well understood''.

-lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz