Featured / News / Community / Sport / 3rd August 2023
Upcoming swim season set to make a splash
After a disjointed pool season in 2022, this summer might provide some much-needed relief for residents as Warrumbungle Shire Council considers reducing fees or offering free pool entry to attract swimmers.
Council is taking a more proactive approach to increasing pool usage this year, with new initiatives to extend pool opening hours and increase user numbers across the Shire.
Warrumbungle Shire Council mayor, Cr Ambrose Doolan said there would be a workshop held in the coming weeks to address the “worrying decline” in pool usage.
The workshop will focus on strategies to help increase patronage at each of the Shire’s six pools.
Reduced entry costs
Cr Doolan said one such strategy could be to lower pool entry fees or potentially make entry free to all users.
“Councillor Todd suggested a season ticket should be around $5 to $10, or whatever the cost of the card is to let yourself in,” Cr Doolan said.
“Deputy mayor, councillor Iannuzzi then said that seeing as Council only took $57,000 in entry fees last year across six pools, what would be the implications if they made pool entry free?
“Council already chips in $540,000 a year to keep the pools open, and we want to encourage use of our local pools because swimming helps to keep your body healthy - for everyone, young and old.”
There is no end to the benefits free pool entry could bring to the Shire, with Cr Doolan saying it could help to address issues including youth crime rates, obesity, and mental health.
“Swimming at the local pool gives kids something to do that’s constructive, keeps them healthy and keeps them out of trouble,” he said.
“We’ll see where it lands after the workshop and after proposals get voted on, but I think it’s a good idea to make it free so that we can encourage more people to get out and be healthy.”
Another suggestion to help draw more people to the pool was allowing coffee floats to set up outside the pool areas for free.
“These are the sorts of things we are going to weigh up at the workshop in the coming weeks,” Cr Doolan said.
“Council welcomes submissions from the community about what they think we could do to get more people in the pool.”
Fees and charges
Although reduced entry fees or free entry to Shire-managed pools is on the table, the decision is not guaranteed.
If these changes do not go ahead, pool entry costs will increase across the board, as listed on Warrumbungle Shire Council’s fees and charges.
Due to inflation, most entry fees and season ticket prices will rise by at least five per cent.
The smallest increase was on casual entry, which will rise 4.6 per cent from $4.20 to $4.40 per person, while the largest increase will see the half-season ticket jump from $72.50 to $76.50 per person - a 5.52 per cent increase.
However, the provision of a more affordable four-week season ticket for individuals and families will be offered for the first time this year, after Council received community feedback requesting a shorter season ticket option.
“There are people who are here for a short time over the summer, so the four-week season ticket is a more cost-effective option for people who will only be using the pool within a shorter time frame,” Cr Doolan said.
This year, there has also been the introduction of a new ‘booking fee’ for groups, including schools, who wish to book out the pool for activities.
Cr Doolan said this new fee had also been the result of price increases due to inflation, however, he mentioned strategies that were being considered to lighten the load on user groups.
“To make things easier, schools would pay a bond which is then repaid each time they use an oval or the pool.
“At the last meeting, Council resolved to amend the policy so that schools only have to pay one bond for the year and then they can use any Council facility, rather than how it is at the moment with the bond that voids after every use.”
One of the reasons behind last year’s sporadic swim season in Coonabarabran was due to the overland flows from the showground flooding and contaminating the pool with dirt when it rained.
“Council just couldn’t get up there because it was too wet to get the machinery in there, but the hope is to see this issue resolved ahead of this year’s pool season,” Cr Doolan said.
“This year’s drier weather should allow for the appropriate machinery to enter the area and create a bank for the water to drain through.”
Another issue plaguing the 2022 swim season was chlorine levels.
Council voted in favour to spend $550,000 on bringing all of the electronics and pumps at the six pools across the Shire up to date, to allow for automatic doses of chlorine to the pools.
It is expected these systems will be ready to go for the upcoming swim season.
Not only will this keep the pool water cleaner, but if the systems are consistent across the Shire, it will make it easier for pool attendants working across numerous pools.
In terms of pool attendants, Council is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year.
“We only had nine people covering six pools last year – and five of them were from Dunedoo,” Cr Doolan said.
“To avoid a situation similar to last year, Council is calling out for people to take on the job as a pool attendant to help keep our pools open for longer.”
“We really need some people to come forward, it’s a good job, it pays well, and Council will train you.
“Having more pool attendants will greatly help us keep the pools open for the scheduled times – nine just isn’t enough to cover the six pools across the shire.”
After securing a $200,000 grant from the Resources for Regions program at the end of last year, Cr Doolan said this was a “vital first step” to being shovel-ready in time for further grant opportunities.
This funding will be used to develop a master plan for the pool, including a recreation building and a new heated program. The plan would also see a reduction in the pool length to 25 metres, to accommodate a new learn-to-swim and exercise area, as well as widening of the pool to provide a full-length ramp for wheelchair accessibility.
This work is currently out to tender. Upon completion, the master plan will support further grant applications, helping transform the plans into reality.
Cr Doolan said that by potentially making pool entry free this swim season, the increased pool patronage would be a benefit to future grant applications for upgrades to the pool facilities, as this is one of the factors that would be taken into consideration.
“A lot of things get taken into account when applying for grants, for example, how long you’ve been trying to get the upgrades, pool usage – you need to demonstrate that it’s in the long-term plan, it’s in the budget, and that we’re serious about it.”
What should be done to increase pool usage? Email your thoughts and feeback to: firstname.lastname@example.org