Swimmers say pool concern overstated

Some Wanaka swimmers say they are more concerned about the dangers of icy Upper Clutha roads than earthquakes.

Wanaka's only community pool was closed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council on Friday when engineers judged it was a ''very low level'' earthquake risk and since then, the council has been making arrangements for Wanaka swimmers to swim at the Cromwell or Frankton pools.

Wanaka Swim Club head coach Fiona Hezinger told the Otago Daily Times that ruled out the club's 100 members, aged 8-18, who train before school.

Icy roads were ''just going to make it too dangerous, I think, and it's not fair to ask 10 and 11-year-olds to get up at 4.30am to train'', she said.

Adult swimmers from Wanaka are forming early morning car pools for the 110km round trip to Cromwell.

Multisport competitor Dr Andrew McLeod told the ODT yesterday he believed swimmers were at greater risk of coming to harm on icy roads than from an earthquake while swimming at the pool.

''The council can say they are trying to protect us by keeping us out of a potentially risky building, but if they are looking at the health and welfare and safety of their ratepayers as a whole, you have got to factor in the alternative activity people are going to take.''

Dr McLeod said his preference was to continue using the Wanaka pool, despite the earthquake risk, but he had begun travelling to Frankton and Cromwell to train.

The Wanaka Swim Club has 26 members regarded as ''competitive'' swimmers.

Ms Hezinger said the first three days this week had already been scheduled for annual maintenance at the Wanaka pool, so most swimmers had this week off.

However, some had national events coming up and were now training during public sessions at the Cromwell pool.

Ms Hezinger said she had been asked to put in an application for lane space at Cromwell for Wanaka swimmers, and that was expected to be considered at a meeting today.

She hoped training time would be available at Cromwell three times a week after school.

''But as to whether we will get that ... Cromwell will have to look after their own people first and I know they already have groups using the pool at times we've asked for.''

The club was also looking at the availability of private 25m pools in Wanaka for use by some of the town's top swimmers, although one being considered was not heated.

And two swimmers scheduled to take part in national short-course events were considering the use of a 15m pool.

''If you look at the positives, they will get better at their turns in a short pool,'' Ms Hezinger said.

''We're putting the feelers out, to see if any of those outdoor or indoor smaller pools might be an option at least for a couple of elite swimmers.''

She described the disruption to swimmers as ''absolutely huge'' and she believed swimmers would drift away to other sports they were involved in.

''I just think we are going to lose a lot of them.''

Ms Hezinger said several club members swam at the Wanaka pool because of their involvement with multisport events, including six who were going to compete in Hawaii soon.

Wanaka was also a training base for teams of multisport athletes in summer, and if they decided not to come to Wanaka, there would be an effect on other businesses, she said.

Last summer, the New Zealand, Dutch and other international triathlon squads trained in Wanaka and local multisport athletes who used the pool included Nicky Samuels, Braden Currie, Dougal Allan, Oska Inster-Baynes and Simone Maier.

Ms Hezinger said several people, including herself, relied on the pool for their livelihood.

''I think it's way more far-reaching than they are realising.''

Council general manager operations Ruth Stokes told the ODT this week the council took over management of the pool in 2010 from the Wanaka Community Pool Trust and became the building's owner last year.

mark.price@odt.co.nz