Spirited pool debate

By Robert Muir

It’s gone on for 12 years and there was still plenty of lively debate in Federation Council last week about a new Corowa Swimming Pool.

As briefly reported in last week’s Free Press, to meet deadlines, councillors voted 5:4 in favour of a 50m outdoor pool which confirmed its in-principle agreement for such at the April meeting.
The April meeting motion was for council to adopt Option 4 - an outdoor seasonal 50m, eight lane pool and 15m long x 11.5m learn to swim/program pool and splash pad - on the motion of Crs Shaun Whitechurch and Norm Wales.
At the May 15 meeting, Cr Whitechurch again moved that motion, but added that council also continue to investigate a heated indoor pool. His reasoning was, that if the indoor pool was found to be feasible, the total outcome would appease the whole community which is divided over the matter.
That inference of further delay riled Cr Fred Longmire, who along with some other councillors, believed the only possibility of affording a pool complex, which would include borrowings and funding grants, was for either a 50m pool or 25 heated indoor pool, not both.
“They’ve just been delays and delays, I’m sick of it,” he said. “The time is now to make a decision. I swam in that pool as an eight-year-old and loved it but people’s views toward a 50 metre pool have changed over the years.”
Cr Whitechurch acknowledged “the very long process”. He referred to further submissions, for and against, from the public, but added: “I can’t see me changing my mind at the 11th hour.
“We can be looking at a full aquatic centre which will make Corowa a place to come.”
He acknowledged the need to look after the elderly. “But does it mean we are going to be a town that continues to look after older people and make no effort to attract young families?” he asked.
With his new motion, to include continued investigation into a heated indoor pool, it hasn’t ruled out any chance of an indoor heated pool, particularly as Cr Andrew Kennedy, who seconded Cr Whitechurch’s motion, believes estimated costs of all options are excessive.
Notwithstanding the deputy mayor’s reference in the motion to investigate an indoor pool option, having both a 50m outdoor and separate 25m indoor pool would be an extremely unlikely course of action in view of a big enough battle to obtain the extra required funding for a 50m pool.
Cr Gail Law spoke at length against a 50m pool and strongly in favour of a 25m heated indoor pool. She said what was particularly noticeable from consultation findings and the impacts of ageing was “the increase in mature consumers requiring an increased demand on age-friendly facilities including sport and recreational facilities and programs”.
“They said what’s not great in Corowa is lack of social participation - dancing, aqua fitness and croquet,” Cr Law said.
“Things people would like to see improved were access to a heated pool for hydro therapy, all-year-round access to swimming pools and improve all-abilities access to swimming pools.
“Aquatic exercise is effective for anyone wanting to build lean muscle mass, increase strength or heal from injury. It is also the ideal exercise medium for ageing adults by maintaining their good health at a comfortable, functional level.”
Cr Law’s address was supported by Cr Paul Miegel. He drew on his long working background in the health industry, as a pharmacist, pointing out the many benefits to senior citizens of an indoor heated pool, and to the town attracting more visitors who would use the pool and spend money to help local businesses.
“We need to fundamentally build a facility that can be used by the broadest section of the community for the largest proportion of the year,” Cr Miegel, the last mayor of Corowa Shire Council, said.
Howlong-based councillor David Longley could not attend the April meeting but added his views after speaking to many Howlong residents, many of whom travel to Wodonga’s heated pool.
“People said they would come to Corowa because it’s closer,” Cr Longley said. “Sporting groups would too, and feel part of Federation Council.”
He maintained that if it costs $200,000 a year more to run than a 50 metre pool, the much greater usage would put a big dint in the extra cost.
Cr Bronwyn Thomas and Cr Norm Wales confirmed their support for the 50m outdoor proposal but had little to say last week.
Cr Thomas did, however, say that council’s newly adopted ageing well strategy does include a number of initiatives for senior citizens.
Surprisingly, nothing was said about the 50m outdoor Yarra/Mul Swimming Pool located in which Corowa Shire Council contributed $100,000 towards its construction in the 1990s.
The club’s head coach Lyndon Hart has said if Corowa chose a heated indoor pool, he would seriously consider taking his swimmers to Corowa instead of Wangaratta for training during the colder months.
A long-time supporter of a heated pool, he is on record as saying: “I’ve always loved the 50 metre pool but I think the days of building a 50 metre pool anywhere in Australia are over. It’s about usage and value, and not just 12 weeks a year.
“We certainly need an indoor pool, for all year round swimming and for general purpose, for the community’s benefit.”
When the vote last week was 5:4 in favour of Cr Whitechurch’s motion, the approximate 10 gallery attendees, who were senior citizens, expressed disappointment or disgust at council’s decision.