This Waiheke Local Board has bypassed usual Council consultation processes by granting Te Huruhi and Waiheke High Schools up to $25,000 from their 2013/2014 SLIPs (small local improvements projects) operational budgets, to ‘undertake a study which will explore the financial viability and development of a business model for a community pool to be built on Ministry of Education land at Donald Bruce Road'.
At its 30 January 2014 meeting, the Waiheke Local Board used the Notice of Motion procedure to approve the grant. To reiterate - the previous Waiheke Local Board (term 2010-2013) funded an Initial Feasibility Study to investigate a community swimming pool on Waiheke Island. By doing so, they fast tracked Council’s investigation process. The Report was produced by Watershed Property, Project and Aquatics Consultancy and identified FIVE sites as 'viable and therefore considered at a more thorough level' (Watershed, 2013, p. 17). The then Board referred the Study findings for consideration 'as part of the Council's aquatic facility network planning ...’ which required further, in-depth investigation (including water supply, waste-water disposal, public access, construction, maintenance and operational costs) for each site and public consultation.
Not content to let Council process run its course and the further investigation to take place on these FIVE sites, the new Waiheke Local Board, in a stroke of sheer self-serving arrogance, made the decision for us and, by gifting money to the schools, and thus unilaterally opting for the school sites above three Council owned locations.
It’s no surprise that the report commissioned by the schools recommends - the development of two pools, a lane pool 25m x 12m heated to 27 degrees and a learn to swim pool 12m x 8m heated to 33 degrees with a substantial contribution from Council (aka the ratepayer). But it does sound a note of caution.
• A standalone trust to own the pool if built on school grounds keeping financial responsibility separate from school and user groups.
• A hands off Council involvement enabling innovation with approx. $100k funding sought from Council to contribute toward operating costs and a renewal budget if the recommendations of the report are followed.
Now it’s a peculiar state of affairs when the Chair of the Waiheke Local Board Paul Walden makes a summary of the School Pool Report’s recommendations available to his supporters on a social networking site, when the schools’ Boards of Trustees (BoTs) haven’t yet discussed or approved the Report. Nor (as a Report funded by the ratepayer) has it been on a Local Board agenda for members of the public to view. But that’s a lack of proper process, transparency and accountability that deserves further attention at a later stage …
Back to the school pool - Support ‘in principle’ from the Local Board is fine. But that’s where it should stop. The schools should now ‘go it alone’ and provide a pool/s for their own children on school land. They can get on with doing what they do best, ‘fundraising’, and what better cause than a school swimming pool. No doubt some of the island’s great ‘benefactors’ like Hawkesby, will come to the party and put their hands in their pockets to come up with the estimated $1.8 million “for an outdoor pool, heated, fenced, new changing rooms, toilets, showers and enclosed reception and administration office”. Personally I think that’s a huge underestimate because it doesn't seem to include the "water supply, waste-water disposal, public access" costs.
Assuming the school BoTs do approve the report and make a formal resolution to proceed with the project then it becomes a school project. Enthusiastic supporter, Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, might even stomp up with Government cash to build the ‘pools’. Because, let’s face it, this is for the kids and should be a MoE project.
If school fees don’t cover it, then parents could pay on a levy per head basis for their children to use the pool so on-going maintenance and operating costs are covered. If there’s still a cost shortfall, the schools could even make their pool available for community use by charging according. Because one thing is very clear - the three local schools between them will require almost all the opening hours of any school pool and kids’ swim clubs will soon fill in any empty slots.
In terms of a ‘standalone trust’ to own the pool – forget it! That’s the failed model of the Waiheke Recreation Centre (the school gym) on High School land. It’s hard enough to get anyone to be a member of that Trust. The position is onerous and time-consuming and carries huge financial responsibilities.
The most telling section of this ‘leaked report’ is that which ‘recommends a hands off Council involvement enabling innovation with approx 100k funding sought from Council to contribute toward operating costs and a renewal budget’.
The only thing we know is that, if there is to be a swimming pool from this Local Board, it will be a SCHOOL pool on SCHOOL grounds and the ratepayer can rightly say - ‘hands off’ our money. The schools should go it alone.