OFF AIR WITH BRYAN VICKERY
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.