City of Greater Bendigo plans to close Golden Square pool

The Golden Square pool is threatened with closure when the city’s new indoor aquatic centre opens.

The City of Greater Bendigo council will vote next week on a recommendation to close the pool, and hold a ‘community celebration to recognise the contribution of volunteers and the facility to community life in Golden Square’.

The community has vowed to again fight to keep the pool open, and has launched the Let’s Keep it Open campaign.

The council recommendation follows a significant and prolonged community fight to keep the pool open.

In 2013, councillors voted unanimously to keep the pool open under the management of an incorporated community group, following a campaign led by the Save the Golden Square Pool committee. The pool was to close when the new indoor swimming pool opened at Kangaroo Flat, but in 2016 councillors said they were open to allowing the committee to continue operating the facility in the longer term.

However, the council will next week vote on whether to close the pool when the Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre opens.

The report to councillors reads: 

At the Council meeting of 6 March 2013 Council resolved amongst other things: 

  • the pool will be permanently closed and be decommissioned: 1. In the event that conditions of the lease cannot be met; or 2. In the event of continued successful operation, no later than the opening of the proposed new Kangaroo Flat Aquatic Centre. With the Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre at Kangaroo Flat expected to open prior to the 2018/19 summer, the Golden Square Swimming Pool will be decommissioned at the end of the 2017/18 summer season in accordance with this resolution.

The report notes Golden Square Swimming Pool Inc. had successfully operated the Golden Square Swimming Pool since it reopened in 2013 and attendances and community engagement with the site had ‘significantly increased’. 

The Golden Square Pool Committee of Management argues the recommendation has not taken into account the population growth in the area, in line with the City’s support for medium to high density housing. 

The committee says the recommendation also does not acknowledge future population growth in the suburb, or that Golden Square is under-resourced in relation to parks and recreational areas.

The Committee of Management believes any decision in relation to the pool should take into consideration the broader benefits the Golden Square Pool provides, including:

  • Community connectedness and social cohesion
  • A place for community togetherness
  • A welcome and inclusive environment for all
  • A facility for families and other groups to come together in a safe and secure area

The committee says that during the past five years, the pool has welcomed 66,000 patrons, with significant growth occurring each year. 

Golden Square Pool President Bernadette Wright urged residents to contact their local councillors, and ask them to vote against the recommendation.

“We need the community’s support to help us keep Golden Square Pool open.”

Click on the photo to see how the pool recently celebrated 100 years of history.

Click on the photo to see how the pool recently celebrated 100 years of history.

Councillors will vote on the following recommendations: That Council: i. Permanently close the Golden Square Swimming Pool upon the opening of the Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre; ii. Conduct a community celebration to recognise the contribution of volunteers and the facility to community life in Golden Square; iii. As part of the Golden Square Recreation Reserve Master Plan undertake community engagement to determine the future use of the site for community health and wellbeing purposes; iv. As part of the 2018/19 budget deliberations allocate design funding to support repurposing of the site in accordance with the master plan; and v. Where possible, repurpose Council owned assets of Golden Square Swimming Pool at other public swimming pools. 

The recommendation follows a number of options or alternatives put forward for the site in the report to councillors, which include:

Closure/Tenure: Council could continue operations for a period of time in order to ascertain the attendance level and interest in Golden Square Pool following the opening of Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre. For example, a two year lease (expiring 30 June 2020 would allow Council to consider usage trends in the period following opening of the new Centre.

Financial: In the event that the facility remains open, Council also has a number of options regarding the level of financial support provided to the facility: 1. Continue under the current financial arrangements; 2. Remove the $50,000 annual grant provided for the service; 3. Reduce the annual operating grant to be the same as other community managed swimming pools operating over summer but in lieu undertake maintenance at this site commensurate with other pools noting the financial risk associated with this option; 4. Retain the status quo $50,000 operating grant and assume maintenance responsibility for the assets at the site.

The report notes that if the council decides to take maintenance responsibility for the site, additional operational funding would be necessary. It reads: To ensure the benefits of this facility are realised, if Golden Square Pool remains open Council may wish to consider adding provisions that the pool will only remain open if: 2017/18 attendance levels are sustained; Wellbeing and Fairness - Reports Ordinary Meeting - 21 February 2018; The facility continues to be managed by volunteers; and all plant and other infrastructure repairs/replacements are funded by Golden Square Pool Inc. In the event that the operators are unable to meet these conditions, the facility would close.