Council report queries physio pool viability

The campaign to save the Dunedin Physio Pool has been dealt a blow after a report by Dunedin City Council staff questioned the pool's viability.

Doubts over the pool's viability places a council agreement to underwrite up to $300,000 of the cost of saving the pool in doubt, with the funding included in the draft long-term plan (LTP) subject to the staff report.

The report will be tabled at this week's LTP deliberations, where councillors will decide whether to retain the funding for the pool - worth up to $100,000 a year for the next three years.

Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust secretary-treasurer Neville Martin said the report was a blow for its fundraising efforts but disputed its findings, while Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said it was a ''warning'' to councillors.

Parks recreation and aquatics acting group manager Richard Saunders said in the report that ''even'' with the council's planned $300,000 underwrite ''risks exist to the pool's ongoing financial viability''.

Those risks included the way the pool was operated.

''Staff have attended the physio pool operation and identified potential gaps between current operations and generally accepted good practice for public pools.''

The report also identified risks of fundraising targets - of $700,000 by July and another $800,000 by July next year - would not be met, an assumption there would be attendance growth at the same time as entry fees increased and the fact no allowance had been made for lease payments to the Southern District Health Board.

An independent assessment of the capital requirements for the new pool and potentially the operating model was necessary and there should also be a requirement for the trust to come up with a fundraising plan.

Rather than providing the $300,000 underwriting, council could consider giving a one-year grant in the first instance to allow council staff to work with the trust on assessments and a fundraising plan.

Mr Cull said councillors had been given a ''warning'' by staff over the pool.

''They are not saying drop it and let it sink, but they are providing caution.''

Councillors would consider dropping the $300,000 underwrite in favour of a one-off grant.

''The short-term one-off funding would allow the pool to continue to operate while its long-term viability was confirmed.''

Mr Martin said the loss of the $300,000 underwrite would be a ''step backwards'' for the trust and the negative comments made by staff would not help its fundraising campaign.

He was disappointed he was not able to receive a draft of the report before it went to council, which would have allowed him to ''correct any assumptions or errors''.

There were a ''number of points'' the trust disagreed with and he planned on providing a response to council by tomorrow.

Until then he would not go into ''detail'' about the trust's view of the report.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

 

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