Principal’s efforts save swimming pool from closure

The Dunedin North Intermediate school pool housing which will be demolished and replaced. PHOTO:...
The Dunedin North Intermediate school pool housing which will be demolished and replaced. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A pool where thousands of Dunedin people have learned to swim has been saved thanks to the efforts of a school principal.

The pool at Dunedin North Intermediate faced being closed because the roof and support structure were both failing.

But instead the school has raised the money to replace the structure, with the pool itself, built in 1951, in good enough condition to remain.

Principal Heidi Hayward was advised by engineers the roof and support structures around the pool were beyond saving.

Faced with a large funding shortfall, the school reached out to the Ministry of Education which awarded funding.

This was despite a policy stating there was no funding for building or replacing school pools.

Seven nearby primary schools used the pool, facilitated by JC Swim School.

JC Swim School owner Jill Clarke said if it was not for Ms Hayward’s remarkable efforts the pool would have been left derelict.

"Heidi is the real star here — we’re just her dedicated support crew."

The swim school had paid for temporary supports to keep the pool running while funding was gathered for the refit.

Ms Hayward said it was hoped to have the new facilities completed by late winter next year.

The replacement of the pool was a priority as it was the only one in the area. Many schools had lost their pools over the last couple of decades.

Ms Hayward said she wanted to keep the pool open.

There were 360 school pool closures in 2019 alone, according to an RNZ report in 2020. The pool closures had disproportionately affected lower decile schools.

In their 2022 annual report Water Safety NZ said only 27% of schools provide the curriculum’s minimum swimming lessons.

Despite it being owned by DNI, pupils from the school did not use the facility as it was too small.

Along with Ministry funding, the project was supported by the Otago Community Trust, Mercy Hospital, The Lion Foundation and a community givealittle page.

By Rafael Clarke