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Opening hours to be retained at Norwood Pool

posted 4 Jul 2017, 00:22 by Christel Mex
My motion for a 50-metre refurbished pool at Norwood and a re-developed Payneham Memorial Swimming Centre was endorsed for community consultation on Monday night. In addition, pubic access at the Norwood Pool had a reprieve when the same motion reversed a staff recommendation that would have seen a severe reduction of opening hours at the Norwood pool.  The motion also requires a marketing plan for both pools for the next three seasons, with the aim to maximise patronage, improve community health and wellbeing and to encourage community connectedness.  I was also fortunate to second the motion to review the city’s playground strategy, and voted in favour to adopt the annual business plan and to provide sandbags to residents during flooding incidents. I also supported a motion to investigate on-street parking provisions in Kensington prior to the construction of the Peregrine development.

Below is what I said regarding my motion for the swimming centres. The full motion can be read in the minutes of the meeting held on 3 July 2017 at: http://www.npsp.sa.gov.au/about_council/council_and_committees/council_agenda_and_minutes

I move this motion with four things in mind.

 1. We need to be truthful to our City Plan.

When referring to CityPlan on page 24 of the staff report, it states that we need to have convenient and accessible services and to maximise access to services and facilities – not to decrease access.

2. We need to think long-term and invest our capital wisely.

Option three, with a Myrtha liner, provides a guarantee of another 25 years for the pool, and is much more 

cost effective than a simple patch-up job with the maintenance option.

3. We Need to stay true to what went out to consultation and listen to the feedback.

Opening hours was not part of the consultation process. If this is introduced at this late stage it will appear sneaky and dishonest. We didn’t say for instance, “if you pick the 25-metre option for Norwood, we’ll keep the pool open for you, but if you pick a 50-metre option you won’t be able to swim between 9 and 3.”

4. We desperately need a marketing plan for both pools.

The staff report suggests that the Norwood pool could be operated as a low-patronage centre. How aspirational for our capital expenditure is that!

One of the important objectives of the review that has been forgotten from page A4, was to develop a marketing strategy to increase the usage of the swimming centres.

The staff report has a strong emphasis on lap swimming in Norwood, but the redeveloped centre will also provide a new learners pool with a beach entry suitable for toddlers. I have seen parents and babies use this as a place to socialise during the day to escape the heat. At Unley, they offer parent-toddler swim classes during the day, which would make good use of the learners’ pool instead of locking it up.

We also need to remember our older residents, with the over 55’s increasing by over 2,500 according to the report. On page A7 it states that aquatic centres will increasingly be expected to service the needs of this age group. Older residents, as well as young people deserve the opportunity to enjoy general fitness activity. As offered in Unley, we could offer gentle and deep water exercise classes such as aqua cardio, low impact classes and yoga during the day. Unley also offers private swimming lessons on demand during the day. 

The consultation report is full of great suggestions from residents for marketing the swimming centres. Many complained that people don’t know where the Norwood pool is. Let me read some of their suggestions:

  • Think laterally and be more open minded
  • Try large signs and banners across main roads (like Unley does)
  • The history and character of this centre should be leveraged - Think creatively about how to maximise the unique space.
  • It would be great to have a good café, with healthy food, that can be accessed from the outside
  • Have other health services such as aqua fitness, yoga and tai chi
  • Get local trainers and gyms involved
  • Promote the pools during the Christmas Pageant
  • Try a plastic tent over the pool in cold months, like Sydney
  • Extend opening hours - Unley opens in mid-September and closes at the end of May
  • Bring back some of the adornments which were used in the birthday celebrations
  • Try activities such as movie screenings and provision of deck chairs and umbrellas.

… And in regards to our favourite topic of parking,

  •      Introduce 45% parking in Philips Street (and I think we should consider time-limit restrictions in the car park which is dominated by all-day parkers) 

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg and it was great to see such a great response to the consultation. I know that not all these ideas are feasible, but it shows that the community wants the centres to be well utilised.

I think it’s unnecessary to reduce opening hours.  What about the very hot days? What about the value of season passes? What do we do with people who arrive at 8:15 for a swim? People will get confused when turning up to locked gates and become disillusioned.

This idea directly contradicts the ‘market intelligence’ key trends report on page A6, where it states that people will need flexibility in the times when they recreate, with changing employment structures and work hours.

And why should we be investing in more shade facilities if its closed for most of the day? That will be seen as a big waste of money if people can’t use the pool in the middle of the day.

It is discriminating against people who live near the Norwood pool – and this is unfair. The savings of a few thousand dollars will be miniscule compared to the cost in staff-hours dealing with the complaints.

Let’s think differently. Let’s be aspirational. Let’s seize the opportunity to open the new centres with fanfare and services that not only keeps our community healthy, but keeps them connected with one another. 

I strongly believe that locking up the refurbished pool at Norwood during the day is a backward step. It is way too premature to entertain this notion before the refurbish pools are opened and before a marketing plan is implemented.  Our community came up with some excellent ideas.  Let’s work with them and think aspirational, instead of with pessimism.       

Summary

The staff report recommends significant cuts in opening hours for the Norwood pool, yet provides no figures on day-time patronage or clarity on how much money could be saved from the budget and how this would impact the local community.

Lets remember that our swimming centres are well attended compared to other services. According to the 2015-16 annual report, the centres had 115,000 attendances in a 26-week season.  In comparison, our libraries had 180,000 visitations over 52 weeks and if we divided that into 26 weeks it would equate to 90,000 visits -  which is 25,000 less than the pools.  And no one is talking about libraries ‘losing money’ – they are a crucial investment in our community, as are the swimming centres. 

In the last financial year, the swimming centres performed with a favourable variance.  I expect with the implantation of an effective marketing plan, attendance and revenue can only increase. There is no solid evidence in the staff report that justifies reduced operating hours – especially after the pools are refurbished.

Let me remind you of what residents said during consultation:

  • It is Council’s responsibility to enhance community wellbeing
  • Pools bring communities together and promote healthy lifestyles
  • The health benefits to older people such as myself are considerable. Regular swimming at Norwood has helped me recover from a serious illness.
  • Consider innovative ways to fund the refurbishment like a lottery or crowd-funding

And my favourite submission said,

  •      It’s 2017 – this means you need to be creative. Can you be? I have to trust.

The idea of locking up the pool during the day is just penny pinching and mean. There was no empirical evidence in the staff report that justifies reduced operating hours at one pool over another. No entry and exit time figures, no data regarding cost savings or the implications of split shifts.

I’m not saying that opening hours shouldn’t be scrutinised, buts it should be done in an informed manner, holistically and after a decent marketing plan has been implemented.

 

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