FACED with the possibility of another community campaign to save the Golden Square Pool, volunteer committee chair Bernadette Wright’s message is simple: “We’ve done it before and we can do it again.”
Council will next week vote on whether to close and decommission the facility, which has been operated by a committee of management since 2013.
That was the point at which the council decided to keep the pool open, but only until the proposed Kangaroo Flat pool was open.
Prior to that, the Golden Square community had launched a campaign to help save the pool from closure as council looked to cut costs following the review of aquatic centres in the
That review led to council’s decision to push for a new indoor pool at Kangaroo Flat – which has become the $31 million Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre, expected to be open mid-year.
Since then Ms Wright said the pool has flourished, with strong patronage and a host of community events being well attended and the second largest VicSwim enrolment of any regional pool in Victoria.
Ms Wright said she was not surprised by the news on Wednesday, but had hoped council would have recognised the success the pool has had in operating under the volunteer committee’s stewardship.
“We knew the lease was coming up for renewal, I guess I felt that with the way the pool has been utilised – with over 66,000 people through the gate – that council would see sense and see that it is a pool that is used,” she said.
“We knew that it was a possibility because that’s been over our head since 2013, we’ve had three leases since then.
“We did know it was possible but based on what we believe is evidence that shows this pool is a community hub, it offers many other things that other pools don’t offer.
“We see that we can co-exist with the new pool.”
Council provides the Golden Square pool with a $50,000-a-year grant to help with operating costs, and has also contributed a now chlorination facility.
But council says the facility, built in the mid-1960s, is approaching the end of its life and the costs to keep it and similar facilities open are stacking up.
Council estimated in 2013 that the total cost of works to maintain the site would be $292,000. The pool committee has funded $31,300 of those, including painting of the pools and new signage.
The approximate cost of the works needed for the facility to prolong its lifespan and comply with regulations was estimated in 2013 by council to be close to $300,000.
“And that was fine years ago, so there’s no doubt that while the pool committee has done work, there would be more to do,” council’s health and wellbeing director Vicky Mason said.
Ms Mason said the council applauded the work the committee had done in running the Golden Square facility, but with two pools within 2.5 kilometres and the Kangaroo Flat centre set to open, that patrons would not use Golden Square as much as in previous years.
“This is no indication of the great work the volunteer committee at Golden Square have been doing, we know they are doing a great job,” she said.
“It really is about that council has 11 outdoor pools, an indoor pool and a splash park. This is infrastructure, much of which was built in the late 1950s and 60s and is becoming a large cost to ratepayers across Bendigo to maintain quality and safety standards.”
Ms Wright said while councillors can’t tell the committee as to which way they will vote, several had supported the pool and its projects.
“It’s more than just having a pool, this is so important for the community,” she said.
“They will vote, I don’t know how they’ll vote. I am hoping they will do the right thing by their constituents and by this community.“
– Joel Peterson