Statement – Tanya Fane
Concerns for loss of 50m outdoor pool from Batemans Bay
I do not want to take away from the amazing and long-running efforts of the indoor pool committee.We are all indebted to that committee.
This is a cautionary tale.I don’t have facts and figures.This is a community facility, it is going to be funded and managed by a council who are there to do as the community sees fit with community/rate payer money so this tale needs telling.
Competitive sporting facilities MUST form a large part of the decision:or do we go for shorter footie fields, half size tennis courts, partially stocked libraries, or non-competitive swimming pools where qualifying times are not valid due to not being a full Olympic standard pool length?
I have been a resident of the Batemans Bay area for a total of 18 years from the mid-1980’s to now.
I was also a long-term resident in Griffith NSW. Many residents of Batemans Bay/Eurobodalla are ex-Griffith residents.
There are differences and there are similarities. Similar size of the towns, sporting focus of both towns and that both towns have had well utilised outdoor 50m pools easily accessible to town.
My father was Pool Manager of the Griffith Olympic Pool complex for 25 years.
I was a competitive swimmer from 5 years old to my teens to the level of National Titles competition, training up to 13-14 sessions per week for 1.5hr-3hr.
This required sessions from 6am-7.30am Monday – Friday, Saturday 2-3 hour morning sessions, Thursday evening club trials to qualify for higher competition, and Sunday carnivals to 50m competition standards to have valid times for qualifying for Country, State or National titles.Those days were in the late 1960’s and 1970’s when life was less hectic, time seemed easy to come by for families and diaries were not as crammed as they are today.My father was my coach and coached most swimmers in Griffith area for decades.To ask parents to fit in a drive of 50min to and from so many swimming sessions would have ruled me out of competition and probably the whole squad too.
In the late 1990’s Griffith Olympic pool was having some maintenance issues and was leaking. It was a tiled pool, with a deep end of 11 feet (3.35m), diving platforms for diving competitors, and slippery dips. The surrounding grounds had a toddler pool, learn-to swim pool, waterslide and pool, BBQs, grassed areas, retro 1920’s style change rooms of beautiful curved brickwork, and grandstands for viewing racing and casual attendance with shade sails.
My information is that the councillors of the day were offered at-cost metal liners for the main 50m pool to repair the leaks, from a German company, hoping to use Griffith Olympic pool as a demonstration of the minimal costs that their liners are in revamping aging pools in Australia.Other pools (I believe Cowra Olympic pool is almost identical to Griffith’s pool and of the same age) have had their problems in the country areas of NSW. They have also had issues to deal with to keep the Olympic outdoor 50m pools and grassy surrounds maintained.
In events that are very much as is occurring in Batemans Bay, Griffith council pushed through with a decision to fill in the existing pool, demolish the beautiful changerooms and distinctive curved brick front entrance, all other pools and water slide, rather than work with what the community loved.
The community fought hard to be heard and to save the complex, the 50m pool and the beautiful summer facility for the town. They failed. My understanding was there was a campaign of ensuring the community could not stop the push to go to a small, cramped, smelly, foggy, slippery tiled 25m indoor pool complex, squeezed into a small portion of the original large land area.
I was told of the demolition of the Griffith Olympic pool (my childhood home away from home) by a friend who was concerned about how I would react when I saw it for myself.It was horrendous.The entrance had been knocked down, and a huge majority of the land was sitting vacant and underutilised with the horrid covered 25m pool building over in one corner of the land.
In short – the loss of the 50m Olympic pool in Griffith has never been lived down. A huge majority of Griffith residents who recall the Olympic pool despise the indoor pool, do not wish to use it, and speak lovingly about the ‘old pool’ to their children and wish they had the chance to see what they were now missing. It is often spoken of in Griffith, and on historical Griffith social media sites/pages. I have posted some pictures from the days my father managed the pool and the reactions from all Griffith current and ex-residents is one of horror that this was ever allowed to be lost and demolished by councillors. Comments are repeatedly “I miss that pool so much. It should never have been filled in”.
Councillors of the day who do not want to be identified now, have admitted they were wrong, they were misguided, and they were misled by a minority group on council wanting their own agenda of the indoor 25m pool.It has been an abject failure and huge waste of money.The cost of revamping the pool would have been a small percentage of the costs that it was to build the new facility.
Batemans Bay can learn from this error in another rural community. 30 years later, Griffith residents hold red hot anger about the loss of the 50m outdoor pool. Yes – Batemans Bay is coastal but it needs a world class sporting facility for the swimmers now and for the future. Learn-to-swim, aged aquatic therapy clients, and competitive swimmers can all utilise the 50m pool. A 25m pool cuts out the competitors – it makes not sense in this period of watching the Commonwealth Games as it inspires new champions. Would we build or advocate a football field that is not of competition length? Would we build a basketball stadium with hoops that are higher or lower than standard competition needs? How about a running track that is only 300m long instead of 400m to save the council money? The elderly could walk around it, and the children learning athletics could use it – right? And yet that notion is ridiculous.
Ask any of the ex-Griffith residents who now live in Batemans Bay about their reaction to the Griffith Olympic Pool demise – they will unanimously say the same thing – that it was a huge mistake that no one ever wanted. The talk now is that the current Griffith council are looking at funding and building a whole new 50m outdoor swimming pool for their community to regain what they lost almost 30 years ago.
I would hate to see this Eurobodalla community suffer as my home town did.I would hate to think the council have hidden information, or have ignored unbiased reports about the viability and condition of Batemans Bay pool written only 4 years ago. I would hate to see deliberate ‘delays’ or ‘hastening’ to dodge sensible community involvement, and suit limited agendas in this massive decision for the future of all in the Eurobodalla Shire.