Council supports physio pool

The physio pool
The physio pool
The Dunedin physio pool seems set to get a reprieve until June and has a shot at a longer future, with a Dunedin City Council offer of support.

The council has indicated it will lend up to $50,000 to the Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust, which runs the pool, so it can begin investigating whether it is viable to keep the facility open beyond June.

Councillors at yesterday's community development committee meeting voted unanimously to recommend the council offer the lifeline, despite several of them expressing concern the Southern District Health Board appeared to be dumping a problem and expecting the community to sort it out.

They also made it clear the loan did not signal any commitment to any long-term council involvement in the pool and that the trust was expected to pay the money back.

''It is simply that we are probably the best-placed group to do something at the moment to facilitate and co-ordinate saving it,'' Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said.

The board decided earlier this year to close the pool in December because it could neither afford to fix the ageing building and pool nor its $100,000 annual operating cost.

Infrastructure and networks general manager Tony Avery said a preliminary assessment by the SDHB indicated it would cost about $1 million to fix various issues with the pool building, but a council review suggested there were gaps in the information and a more in-depth assessment would be needed before any decisions about the pool's long-term future were made.

The council's indication of support for the trust, which is to be confirmed at the next full council meeting, on September 22, comes after the Bendigo Valley Sports and Charity Foundation last month granted the trust $50,000 to cover the pool's operating costs from December to June.

SDHB chief executive Carole Heatly said yesterday she was ''delighted'' with the support to keep the pool open, and the board would reconsider the December closure date at its October or November board meeting.

SDHB chairman Joe Butterfield told the Otago Daily Times late last week he personally had no issue with keeping the pool open until June if the trust came up with the operating cost for that period and there were no public health concerns with it.

Council aquatic services manager Paulien Leijnse yesterday said she could not see any public health issues with keeping the pool open so long as regular daily testing of the water continued to ensure it met NZ Standards.

Pool trust treasurer-secretary Neville Martin said he was pleased with the council having a supportive view and looked forward to its final decision.

The trust's first task would be to apply for funding to repay the council for the cost of the viability study and engage an engineer to do the investigative work.

Time was of the essence and the trust really needed to know within the next six months what the costs would be to ensure there was time to consider the options for the long term, he said.

Ms Heatly said if the study demonstrated that with a capital injection to repair long-term damage, the pool had a sustainable future, the board could then work with the trust.

Crs David Benson-Pope, John Bezett, Doug Hall and Andrew Whiley sought assurances the SDHB's motivations in closing the pool were simply about money and not that they wanted to use the site for anything else.

Mr Martin said he was assured it was purely a financial decision and the board was interested in entering a lease arrangement with the trust should the pool be retained.

Crs Hilary Calvert, Lee Vandervis, Mike Lord, Richard Thomson and Chris Staynes were not at yesterday's committee meeting.


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