OFF AIR WITH BRYAN VICK­ERY

Stratford Press - - News -

No­body likes un­so­licited advice, es­pe­cially from the mother-in-law.

Proud lo­cals (and Stratford is very parochial) gen­er­ally don’t ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing cri­tiqued by out of town peo­ple — un­less of course, they are ex­perts com­mis­sioned by the coun­cil. So here, with some trep­i­da­tion, is my opin­ion about the TSB Pool and its fu­ture.

First the good news. It is nes­tled in a pic­turesque lo­ca­tion, and for many years has been the epi­cen­tre of com­pe­ti­tion swim­ming in Taranaki. The staff at the TSB Pool, led by An­drea Matthews and Mike Hills, pro­vide friendly and out­stand­ing ser­vice.

I think we all know the pool’s short­com­ings. The shed-like roof (akin an army bar­racks roof) is a vis­ual turn-off. The plas­tic roof cov­er­ing ur­gently needs re­plac­ing. The chang­ing rooms, though ad­e­quate, are spar­tan, and the show­ers are a lit­tle too com­mu­nal (for those of a mod­est pre­dis­po­si­tion).

There is unan­i­mous agree­ment the pool needs a ma­jor up­grade. But what is the best op­tion? And how much should the SDC spend, given it is a small coun­cil and es­chews debt and un­nec­es­sary bor­row­ing.

I favour build­ing a new pool next to the TET Multi Sports Cen­tre next to the hockey grounds on Por­tia Street. This cricket ground (130 me­tres square and owned by coun­cil) is used by Stratford Cricket for lim­ited overs matches (three months of the year) be­cause it has an ar­ti­fi­cial cricket pitch. But the pitch could be up­lifted and re­lo­cated to their crick­et­ing head­quar­ters at Vic­to­ria Park.

The nearby ten­nis courts, net­ball courts and the hockey turf com­plex are world class, so why not aug­ment it with a big­ger, more mul­ti­func­tional pool. A pool fea­tur­ing a fit­ness cen­tre, a hy­dro ther­apy pool and more suit­able pools and space for chil­dren to learn how to swim in. There is also space for up to 60 car parks.

The cur­rent pool is not as safe as it needs to be. Ev­i­dently the wa­ter level (in the pool) is sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the en­trance sur­face. And this makes it dif­fi­cult to climb out of the pool, un­less you use the steps.

My pro­posed lo­ca­tion for the new pool would also of­fer pa­trons (who don’t have to su­per­vise young chil­dren) closer prox­im­ity to cafes and shops in Broad­way.

In my opin­ion, paint­ing on a fresh can­vas and build­ing on the cricket ground, that’s fur­ther away from the Patea River will prob­a­bly have less com­pli­ca­tions and be more cost ef­fec­tive than dis­man­tling the ex­ist­ing pool and re­build­ing on it.

I would urge the SDC to be bold and to bor­row the $18 to $25m (at the lower in­ter­est rate they can lever­age as a coun­cil). This won’t sig­nif­i­cantly spike rates bill as in­fras­truc­ture debt bor­row­ing is in­ter gen­er­a­tional. And should the un­palat­able hap­pen, and Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment amal­ga­mates the SDC with ei­ther STDC or NPDC, or be­comes part of a su­per coun­cil, then Stratford still re­tains a great as­set — and the new en­tity in­her­its the debt.

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