Golden Square pool supporters outside council meeting. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

THE fight to save the Golden Square Swimming Pool was won comprehensively Wednesday night as supporters of the pool, nicknamed the Beating Heart of Golden Square, convinced City of Greater Bendigo councillors to defer closure for at least two years.

But president Bernadette Wright had not even started celebrating before she reminded supporters around her of the work ahead.

“It has become the beating heart of Golden Square and you supported it,” Ms Wright said.

“We have a lot of work for the next two years so you are still

In response to an avalanche of email, letters and texts in support of keeping the venue open, councillors unanimously voted to give the volunteer committee that manages the 1960s-built in-ground pool a two-year lease and $50,000 a year for operating costs.

But they also transferred to the committee the risk of infrastructure failure.

If the concrete lining of the pool was to crack because of age, the committee would have to pay for repairs.

It is a very small risk, Ms Wright said, adding that she had been disappointed to see the council continue to report the risk.

“The pool is in better condition than when the council managed it,” she said.

A volunteer committee has managed the Maple Street centre since 2013 when it won for the first time a community campaign against

The council has been pledging for eight years to close it because it is nearing the end of its shelf-life.

Active and healthy lifestyles manager Lincoln Fitzgerald reiterated on Wednesday that there was no sign of structural damage but the concrete pool shell had a “theoretical asset life” of 50 years and, approaching that age, the integrity of the shell became less predictable.

The work Ms Wright and the volunteer committee want to complete in the next two years includes an upgrade to the change rooms, the inclusion of disabled toilets, a new chemical shed and pool surface rendering.

In maintaining the pool, the committee has a good track record.

In five years, it has raised and spent more than $30,000 in maintenance, and through community events and effective community engagement, attendance numbers have soared.

Ms Wright said Wednesday night’s discussion and decision, which was heard by more than 50 pool supporters in the public gallery, was short of the five-year lease she said she wanted to cement the future of the Golden Square pool.

She was echoing the sentiments of Cr Andrea Metcalf who argued during discussion at the meeting that councillors needed to, within the next three years, make a definitive decision about the pool – either close it or invest in it as a going concern.

Lockwood ward councillor Jennifer Alden initially introduced the motion to offer a two-year lease that would allow the council to measure the impact on attendance of the near-complete $31 million Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre in Kangaroo Flat.

The council’s aquatic facilities strategy completed in 2010 recommended the closure of Golden Square because it was old and Bendigo has more pools per capita than any other regional shire.

But in what could be regarded as the cherry on top for Golden Square pool supporters, Cr Alden’s motion included a review of the aquatic strategy.

She wants to open more pools in the municipality.

“Bendigo is a hot place,” Cr Alden said.

“It is unlike anywhere else in Victoria for not being near a water body, sorry but Lake Weeroona doesn’t count in this instance.

“Instead of closing pools, I think we should have more pools, and not splash pools because you can’t learn to swim in a splash park.”

Cr Alden said a review of the aquatic strategy needed to include climate modelling.

Whipstick ward councillor James Williams said many pools were managed beyond shelf life.

“I am confident with good management and with maintenance carried out of the pool, it will certainly last two years,” he said.

Councillors will decide the future of the pool again in 2020.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke broke with the tradition of not commenting on issues before councillors, and said she had heard from residents who supported closure.

“There is concern for residents who don’t use our facilities such as pools and they worry about the cost into the future,” Cr O’Rourke said, adding that she would vote to defer closure of the pool.

The decision to give the pool another two years was unanimous.

– Sharon Kemp