Instead of splashing about, how about Canberra develop a swimming pool strategy?

Tim Gavel 7 January 2022 100
Canberra Olympic Pool

There remains certainty about the future of Canberra Olympic Pool. Photo: File.

A few years ago there was a proposal to build a major aquatic facility on the foreshore in front of what is now New Acton.

It was to be a multi-purpose aquatic complex comprising an indoor 50-metre competition pool complete with enough seating to cater for significant meets, a 25-metre pool and facilities for water polo. I was never sure of the exact details as the proposal remained quite fluid in its concept, and I’m not even sure at what stage it was abandoned.

Instead, it appeared to be replaced by the new indoor facility at the ANU, which was deemed adequate for that part of Canberra.


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The push for a new aquatic complex was viewed as driven, in part, by the uncertainty around the future of the Canberra Olympic Pool in Civic. This continues to be speculated upon, although the time frame to build the new Civic indoor stadium for the Raiders and the Brumbies appears to have blown out considerably.

That is just one part of Canberra’s swimming pool strategy. The other parts, it would appear, require more focus and urgent attention.

Phillip Pool

The Phillip Swimming Pool underwent refurbishment during the winter months. Photo Tim Gavel.

For example, the Phillip Pool, which is closed and fenced off, represents a far more worrying aspect of the overall strategy, if there is one.

John Raut

John Raut, manager of Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Facility manager John Raut says he simply ran out of time because of the impact of COVID. The need to repaint the pool was rendered almost impossible to complete because of the lack of paint and the availability of painters. There is also a symbiotic relationship between the pool and the adjoining ice rink. These issues contributed to the current closure of the swimming pool. It would appear, though, the problems run deeper.

There is a distinct possibility the Phillip Pool may never open again. John Raut doesn’t sound overly optimistic as he highlights the dependency the pool has on the ice rink: “I don’t really know how it will all go, but it will depend on the new ice rink the government is proposing to build at Tuggeranong.

“We are not going to make any money out of the pool if we reopen,” John says.

“If you look at our trading figures for the past 10 to 15 years, the highest gross turnover for the pool was about $190,000 while the lowest for a whole season was $78,000. We can’t even get ready to prepare for the season with that kind of money. And we need staff for 14 hours a day, and it takes three people to staff.

“If that’s around $90 an hour for 14 hours a day, we’re just not making that amount of money. And it’s always had to be subsidised by the ice rink. There’s always a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year pushed into subsidising the pool to keep it going.”

There are also issues with adjoining apartments overlooking the pool, and another block is about to be built across the road.

Swimmers who would normally use Phillip have been forced to head out to Tuggeranong or the new Stromlo facility. But the lack of a pool in Woden, a centre that appears to be growing in population judging by the number of apartments being built, is failing in terms of a swimming pool strategy.

Gungahlin Pool

The Gungahlin pool will be lost for another summer: Closed. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Then there is the Gungahlin Leisure Centre, which was opened with much fanfare in 2014, but is currently not open to the public. More repairs are being made to stop leaking. It was closed last summer and remains closed now.

So where to from here with two of our biggest town centres currently without a swimming pool?

Admittedly the ACT Government couldn’t have foreseen the issues currently facing the Gungahlin pool, but the problems are amplified when you consider the situation at the Phillip facility and the uncertainty over the Canberra Olympic Pool.


What's Your Opinion?


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100 Responses to Instead of splashing about, how about Canberra develop a swimming pool strategy?
Stuart Howie Stuart Howie 7:38 am 11 Jan 22

Definitely need a good outdoor pool in the south but how do they break even? As a lap swimmer, Stromlo Leisure Centre is great when 50m but this is rare. Yes, what is the ACT pool strategy?

Trevor Hickman Trevor Hickman 12:07 pm 10 Jan 22

Phillip pool should be subject to a compulsory acquisition order rather than allowing the owner to run-down the pool (over many years) and then seek an enormous pay-off. The decision taken by the owner to not open the pool during this summer was both calculated and mean spirited and seems (imho) to have had little to do with covid.

    Wendy McKenzie Wendy McKenzie 4:48 pm 10 Jan 22

    Trevor Hickman why doesn't ACT govt take it over like the Tuggeranong pool or YMCA? Ridiculous that it's not open.

Roland A Jones Roland A Jones 7:27 am 10 Jan 22

What? ‘ I was never sure of the exact details as the proposal remained quite fluid in its concept, and I’m not even sure at what stage it was abandoned’. Quality research that.

Ben Harding Ben Harding 8:02 am 09 Jan 22

Come out to the yass pool!

Donna Louise Donna Louise 5:02 am 09 Jan 22

In COVID, really ?

Jimmy Sutho Jimmy Sutho 6:05 pm 08 Jan 22

Recently went to a small country town in western Victoria where there outdoor pool was free and well maintained! Come on CBR we can do so much better!

Jessica Bramwell Jessica Bramwell 4:13 pm 08 Jan 22

A plan for sports infrastructure renewal in general would be refreshing.

Morena Gonzalez Morena Gonzalez 9:54 am 08 Jan 22

Absolutely disgusting! What is this government doing!! Gungahlin swimming pool still closed, wow, unbelievable; however, more apartments are being built “to help the community”, what a joke.

Helen Wade Helen Wade 8:28 am 08 Jan 22

Cheeky but you are correct!

Michael Ahern Michael Ahern 7:40 am 08 Jan 22

Strategy- that would require some urban planning….why would the ACT Government start now?

    Kylie Champion Kylie Champion 3:20 pm 08 Jan 22

    Michael Ahern the way this government is stripping our town of all recreational facilities and allowing the few free or cheap outdoor options to decline to a point that they can no longer be used safely (our so-called "dry playing fields", overgrown paths and broken bike paths case in point) leads me to believe they do have a strategy. But it is a strategy that no one would vote for if they knew about it.

Kerstin Mahoney Kerstin Mahoney 9:04 pm 07 Jan 22

Janet Ammon the good old days

Kevin Wode Kevin Wode 8:38 pm 07 Jan 22

Close them all and just use the lakes and river.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:52 pm 07 Jan 22

A recent RiotAct article about the tramification of Woden mentioned a government survey of under-utilised (or words to that effect) land in and around the town centre. That does not augur well for the Woden pool, when the survey is being conducted for a cash-strapped and densification-obsessed government.

On the other hand, a government which (presumably) believes the climate change related forecasts of dwindling annual rainfall should surely be thinking carefully about the long-term sustainability of using precious drinking water to maintain backyard pools. In that world, a decent public pool facility in each town centre would be a good alternative to private pools.

Onelia Herriot Onelia Herriot 7:51 pm 07 Jan 22

I would like pools to be open for longer of an evening. Would live a swim after work but most are closed or would close within the hour after I finish.

David Bowden David Bowden 7:08 pm 07 Jan 22

Move to Queensland.

Patricia Sharp Patricia Sharp 6:43 pm 07 Jan 22

Can we please have pools that people with bad legs can get into. Most of the pools in Canberra are difficult for people to get in and out of. Mt Stromlo is good. Some have small pools as an alternative but there are plenty of us looking to do proper laps in a big pool but need to access with easy steps or ramp. I hope this can be taken into account.

    Sara Prietto Sara Prietto 1:52 pm 08 Jan 22

    Patricia Sharp Hard agree. I often think wistfully of the community pool we used to go to in Geelong. It had a long beach entrance that just made it so accessible. Made it so much easier to go to the pool if you had someone with mobility issues in your family.

Bernard John Brooks Bernard John Brooks 6:39 pm 07 Jan 22

Under ACT Government plans, Light Rail to Woden and all the money that hope to get from a development bonanza along the route is a far more important than money being spent fixing pools. Get rid of Labor and The Greens at the next election.

    Peter Kenworthy Peter Kenworthy 4:58 pm 08 Jan 22

    Bernard John Brooks well said but in the ACT very unlikely

Natalie Brown Natalie Brown 6:24 pm 07 Jan 22

Civic pool should be maintained and preserved - it’s beautiful and iconic Canberra

    Jody Maree Harrison Jody Maree Harrison 9:24 pm 07 Jan 22

    Natalie Brown

    I also like that pool . Phillip could be nice as well .

    Hope someone can fund them

Bennie Zelenka Bennie Zelenka 4:58 pm 07 Jan 22

They have a pool at lower Molongo sewer treatment

Anne Athema Anne Athema 4:23 pm 07 Jan 22

Plenty of room around the Lyneham hockey centre for an indoor/outdoor aquatic centre.

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