Pool trust still in limbo over lease

Time limits on community grants for the physio pool upgrade in Dunedin may become an issue, but it is hoped the upgrade will begin before the grants start to expire, Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust trustee Fred Daniel says.

After months of negotiating with the Southern District Health Board, the pool trust hit a snag when it emerged last month it had been unable to secure a long-term lease and had to put the $1 million upgrade on hold.

The pool was supposed to have remained shut after the Christmas break for the upgrade to start, but will instead reopen next week.

The Otago Daily Times supported the fundraising campaign launched last year to raise $1.5 million for the upgrade and running costs. The campaign has so far raised more than $1.1 million.

Mr Daniel said the trust had not been aware until recently that Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman must sign off any lease longer than three years, which has been cited as the stumbling block. The trust was seeking a 30-year lease, but would accept a shorter term. However it needed to be a decent length to justify the large spend, Mr Daniel said.

Mr Daniel said the pool trust felt more comfortable dealing with the health board since the commissioner regime was installed last June.

‘‘The previous people gave us no indication whatsoever that there was a limitation for lease agreements over three years.‘‘These people have in fact given us a better open disclosure.''

A $300,000 grant from Otago Community Trust expires in May, but an extension could be sought. The trust would be in contact with all funding bodies. There were time limits on other grants, too. He hoped it would be not be necessary to seek extensions, and felt confident the situation would be sorted and work would start soon.

The physio pool is part of the Fraser building, which is on the Dunedin Hospital campus, and has previously been deemed uneconomic to repair for long-term use. Mr Daniel did not know whether the pool's future would be affected by the separate long-term redevelopment plan for the campus, which is at a preliminary planning stage.

Contacted by email yesterday, chief executive Carole Heatly said as the pool was on the edge of the Fraser building it could be isolated if need be as a standalone facility. Commissioner Kathy Grant did not respond to a request for comment.

Dr Coleman's office referred the ODT to the health board.


The story so far
July 2014: Southern District Health Board confirms it is withdrawing funding for Otago Therapeutic Pool, prompting public outcry.
Later in 2014: Pool trust and pool users rally and enlist community support, including input from Dunedin City Council. Health board grants six-month reprieve to June 30, 2015, so long-term solution can be found.
April 2015: Public fundraising campaign supported by Otago Daily Times launched.
Physiotherapists, special interest swimming groups and other pool users speak out about pool's therapeutic benefits to promote the campaign.
July 2015: Pool trust announces it has passed a significant fundraising milestone and is now confident about the pool's future.
December 2015: Plan hits snag when it emerges the upgrade scheduled for early this year has to be deferred as no long-term lease has been agreed with health board.

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