‘Perfect storm’ for physio pool

Dunedin Physio pool supervisor Gaye Davies is keeping a close eye on the future of the facility,...
Dunedin Physio pool supervisor Gaye Davies is keeping a close eye on the future of the facility, after the Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust raised concerns about whether it would still be open next year. PHOTO: JOHN LEWIS
Failure of the Dunedin Physio Pool’s heat exchanger is one of several issues causing a "perfect financial storm" for the Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust, leaving trustees to question whether it can remain open beyond this year.

Trust secretary-treasurer Neville Martin said the recent failure of the water heating system had forced the pool to close, and many in the community were concerned about how long it was taking to reopen.

"There are a number of issues challenging the trust at present. These have been compounded by the recent failure of the heat exchanger and the need to replace it.

"Until it is replaced, the pool will be closed. While it is closed, the trust will not earn revenue, but it will still incur some costs."

Aside from the heat exchanger issue, the pool was not "financially viable" at present. Water and air space heating costs needed to be reduced, he said.

"The trust is addressing this issue by applying for grants to fund a pool cover, a heat recovery system and a safer and cheaper water treatment solution.

"Included in its applications is provision for urgent replacement of some equipment, including the heat exchanger."

Mr Martin said the trust took the pool over in 2014, when the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) wanted to close it.

It was on the understanding the trust would be responsible for all operating costs ($142,000 per year), deferred maintenance and replacement of equipment.

A Save the Pool campaign began in 2015 and raised $1million for pool upgrades and $500,000 for future operating costs and contingencies, he said.

"The part for upgrades was sought from usual funding providers by way of conditional grants and the target was reached."

However, at the end of 2015, the SDHB announced it would not grant a long term lease of the pool because it might need the space for a new Clinical Services Building. This issue morphed into a new hospital.

As a consequence, the pool upgrade project had to be postponed indefinitely and the conditional offers of grants were recalled.

Recently, the trust entered into a memorandum of understanding with the SDHB, which said the trust would have use of the pool until 2028 if it continued to be responsible for all operating costs, deferred maintenance and replacement of equipment.

"Since 2015, the trust has been stymied in its plans to upgrade the pool and reduce operating costs, and has had to wait for the decision to be made about the location of the new hospital and adhere to the existing cost structure.

"This has forced the trust to incur annual operating deficits.

"To fund these, the trust has had to obtain grants from Bendigo Sport & Charity Foundation and Lion Foundation and utilise much of its reserves and the funds donated by the public during the Save the Pool campaign."

While the pool was able to remain open, the condition of its facilities had deteriorated, he said.

"In addition, the delay and the uncertainty about whether the pool would be affected by the location of the new hospital, and the inability to carry out upgrades and reduce operating costs, have taken their toll on the trust’s reserves, to the extent that it is questionable whether the pool should remain open beyond this year without intervention from either the SDHB or a major funding boost."

Mr Martin said the trust needed time to raise funds for urgent pool upgrades and money to keep the pool open in the meantime.

It might have to ask the SDHB to waive payment of at least $100,000 for a year, he said.

Add a Comment



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter