What’s a promise worth? At the ACT Assembly this afternoon MLAs will debate the August 2008 ALP pre-election promise that “Gungahlin residents to benefit from new 50m pool complex”.
Andrew Barr said at the time that it “will include a 50 metre pool, a 25 metre pool at least 1 court space, for example a netball court and associated amenities such as a café and gymnasium.” http://www.chiefminister.act.gov.au/media.php?v=7202
This was in line with very clear campaigning over several years by GCC based on community surveying that a 50-metre pool was needed, and that people were prepared to wait rather than accept just a 25-metre pool.
Well we have waited, but in recent weeks we’ve received an indication that the now renamed Aquatic and Leisure Centre will include many things but not a 50-metre pool! Gymnasium, sports medical services, and more have been deemed by the authorities as more ‘commercially viable’. They have had a feasibility study done that says you can’t run a 50-metre pool at a profit.
But since when has a local municipality providing core community services been about profits? Has the decision to build a library ever been predicated on it being able to turn a profit? Of course not.
Learn-to-swim classes are critical for Gungahlin families who currently have to commute out to swim classes elsewhere in Canberra. But as everyone knows, these classes totally dominate the 25-metre pool at each centre every afternoon and Saturday – at the very times people also want to train.
We also know that the sport of swimming deserves a far higher prominence in our schools. In other parts of the country, kids train all year to get ready for summer swimming competitions that bring the school together in a big carnival. In Canberra swimming competitions are almost afterthoughts, that are held within weeks of the school year starting.
When I was a Councillor in Queensland, I chaired the Sunshine Coast Water Safety Advisory Committee. For all the emergency services members of that committee, the number one concern was inland residents holidaying on the coast who could not swim well enough.
Now I live in an inland city and I can see how this comes about. (Incidentally, in our Council we had three 50-metre and twice as many 25-metre pools for a population of just 115,000! We knew they didn’t make money and we budgeted accordingly because they were core services.)
Jeremy Hanson clearly reads GCC newsletters, and is bringing the issue to the Assembly’s attention today. I hope the Greens will also call the ACT Government to account on keeping their election promises.
We’ve only got space for one such centre in our town, and we are building this town centre for the population of 90-100,000 that we’ll have very soon. The facilities need to match that projected population.