Awash in rising costs

West Otago swimming  pool management committee chairman Murray Harris says Ministry of Education...
West Otago swimming pool management committee chairman Murray Harris says Ministry of Education safety regulations requiring $17,000 of sub-ceiling netting for the facility are unnecessarily onerous. Photo: Richard Davison
A pool upgrade in Tapanui has been hit with another unexpected expense, as costs continue to spiral.

Recently, the West Otago swimming Pool management committee identified a requirement for $17,000 worth of sub-ceiling "netting" to satisfy Ministry of Education health and safety guidelines.

Project chairman Murray Harris said the latest work would be added to an expanding, $700,000 bill.

After essential repair work to the pool’s plastic roof and cladding was identified in 2014, an initial cost of $300,000 was estimated.

However, Mr Harris said it soon became apparent additional upgrades to the two-pool complex would be necessary, to meet Clutha District Council building code compliance.

The mushrooming costs had led to delays in getting the project started, and the latest safety work was yet another "annoying setback".

"There was an incident where a child got on to the roof of a school pool in the North Island, fell through and came to grief. Since that time, it turns out any pool on ministry land, such as West Otago, must have this netting for health and safety purposes."

Although Mr Harris appreciated the need for "appropriate" safety around pools, the netting rule appeared to be a "one size fits all" regulation, he said.

"As you can see, even an adult would struggle to get up on the roof due to its curved profile. We’re just looking for a bit of common sense here that could save a community project some money."

Despite owning the property, to date the ministry had not contributed to the upgrade, he said.

"We’re improving the facility to the tune of $700,000, and not seeing a dollar in return."

The latest cost blow-out for the pool also raised the temperature at Wednesday’s West Otago Community Board meeting.

Chairwoman Barbara Hanna said the ministry funding position made her "mad", and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan made a further appeal for common sense.

"Frankly, I can’t see the safety side here: kids just shouldn’t be on the roof."

He praised the efforts of the "small, dedicated" West Otago community in its fundraising so far, and said he would attempt to intervene with the ministry on its behalf.

"With another $17,000 on the line, a bit of logic has to prevail. I’ll be contacting our local representatives to raise our concerns."

A spokesman said the ministry would listen to any concerns raised by project stakeholders, while reiterating its commitment to health and safety.

"[The ministry] complies with all building-related legislation and regulations, but sometimes we also set standards above the regulations. In this case, we strongly recommend the owner of the building... apply our standards regarding plastic sheeting because of the health and safety risks they mitigate."

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