THE GOLDEN Square Pool will be demolished after a heated council debate and passionate protest outside the Bendigo Town Hall last night.
Thirty five pool supporters, many waving placards and decked out in blue clothing, chanted as councillors and City of Greater Bendigo staff entered last night’s meeting.
After about an hour of debate, including a failed motion to spend $50,000 on mediation with the Save Our Golden Square Pool group and further expert consultation, a motion to permanently close and demolish the pool and plan for the future use of the site passed by one vote.
Councillor Elise Chapman, who introduced the mediation idea, noted more than 1800 people had signed a petition against the closure and said there had been “absolutely no consultation” with residents.
“Bridges have been burnt and trust and respect lost,” she said.
She said relationships had been damaged and later said it was an “absolute disgrace” the council had spent “$150,000 on a dragon down the Mall” and more than $700,000 on a “toilet block”, but couldn’t find $50,000 for mediation.
She said the money would have “no impact whatsoever” on the council budget.
Councillor Peter Cox said the council needed to talk face to face with residents over the decision and Councillor Rod Fyffe said the council should “work through the logic and work through the emotion” of the decision.
Councillor Helen Leach supported the mediation proposal.
But Councillor Rod Campbell said there had been “serious” consultation over the council’s aquatic strategy and said closing the facility would ensure future funding for pools in places like Heathcote.
He said it was a two or three kilometre walk from Golden Square to the nearest pool but a 50 kilometre walk from Heathcote to the nearest swim centre.
“The truth of the matter is not everything lasts forever and we can’t ignore that,” he said.
He said councillors all viewed the creation of a new pool at Kangaroo Flat as a top priority.
Mayor Lisa Ruffell said there had been a lack of volunteers for the Golden Square Pool in the past and noted it wasn’t a “backyard pool and it can’t be treated as such”.
She said the council had consulted residents since 2010.
Councillor Barry Lyons said the consultation process was as open as it could possibly be with an open, frank dialogue, and ultimately an agonising decision to shut the swim centre.
Crs Chapman, Cox, Fyffe and Leach voted against the closure in favour of mediation with their comments receiving cheers from pool supporters in the gallery.
Save our Golden Square Pool member Linda Howell said the group was working on another course of action to save the pool but wouldn’t elaborate.
“We’ve got a few things on the go, a few avenues to explore,” she said.
Following the meeting, Courtney Owen also said the group would continue its fight but said she didn’t want to discuss it.
Pat Holahan said councillors had made the wrong decision.
“My kid grew up there when I was young ... I’m not happy about it,” he said.
“I can’t see the sense in it.”
Councillors voted to give last year’s season pass holders free access to other pools in the 2013/14 financial year which Cr Chapman described as a “slap in the face”.
Council manager active and healthy communities Patrick Jess said he was looking forward to undertaking a planning and consultation process to determine the most appropriate use of the Maple Street site.