Bendigo Advertiser letters to the editor - community fights for Golden Square pool

READ MORE: Council plans to close Golden Square pool

CAMPAIGN: Golden Square Primary School students are among those calling for the pool to remain open.

CAMPAIGN: Golden Square Primary School students are among those calling for the pool to remain open.

I have read the council report and understand that traditionally it doesn't make sense to have a pool within 2.5km of another pool (in this case 2 pools - Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre in Kangaroo Flat and the Bendigo Aquatic Centre). I understand there are costs to consider and can see that a city wide strategy was adopted in 2010 which included closing the Golden Square Pool.  The thing missing in all of this is that the Golden Square Pool isn't just a pool - it's a community. The facility itself is managed by dedicated locals volunteering their time and it’s used by residents who have come to know it as their space.  This community has been built from five years of relationships, trust, connections and giving people a purpose. This community provides so many benefits, more than any economic model is accounting for and more than any council can create themselves.

You can't just decommission a community.  I note council intends to run a planning and engagement process after the pool has been decommissioned. It makes no sense to enter into this process after the pool is closed and the relationship with the community has been damaged. Engagement needs to be a critical tool used in advance of implementation of the end result. If council were intending to close the pool in March, the master planning and engagement that is mentioned in the report should have been done a year ago. 

Due to the trajectory of community development, past council decisions are now outdated and it's too soon to decommission the pool site when it's future hasn't been properly considered or created. Council needs to rectify the situation by extending the lease for at least another 2 years. During that time they need to work with the community respectfully and collaboratively, giving them a chance to be a part of the solution before it's too late.

Karen Corr, Bendigo

I have been a very strong critic of council officers and councillors over the proposed closure of the pool. The work performed by the committee with the support of the Bendigo community  will, if closed, create trauma to that community which may never heal, or be forgotten. Council officers and councillors cannot ignore the benefits and well-being of the local community on the basis of costs (finance) only. When the council wastes more money on trips, blunders in the Hargreaves Mall for which there appears no accountability. Secondly, the removal of any public asset or facility from a local area and community lessens the value of that area and community property. We can only hope that there are sufficient level heads on council to have the courage to do the right thing by the Golden Square Community.

Bill Collier, Golden Square

I’m writing to you to implore you not to vote to close the Golden Square Pool.

My family has had a long association with many of the Bendigo swimming pools, clubs and communities since moving back to Bendigo in 1999. Our family knows the characteristics of the various Bendigo pools, and GSCP offers a unique experience for families. It is one that fosters a real awareness of neighbours and friends, it is casual and relaxing, and it is a lovely environment with the established trees. We all mourned the loss of the big weeping willow this summer.

GSCP currently employs both my daughter Zoe and son Max (head lifeguard & junior lifeguard respectively at GSCP). They tell me every day about the regulars that attend, the different families that they have come to know and welcome to the pool. The events that GSCP has hosted really speak for themselves … so successful and well attended. It’s a well run pool by the committee, providing an essential service of community cohesiveness in an era when many in our community are isolated, lonely, and in need of opportunities to exercise and socialise.

The loss of the GSCP cannot be replaced by the new Kangaroo Flat pool because it offers a completely different experience, most importantly a well established vibrant and active community. When Bendigo council is faces such difficulty in creating interest and a community vibe for the Hargreaves Street Mall, please don’t extinguish a community that is thriving at GSCP. It deserves a few more years of support, and it will continue to give back to its very content community.

Liz Deed, Bendigo

In council's recommendation for the closure of the pool, they cited an over supply of pools in Bendigo.  So, I was confused when council spoke to the media they suggested the pool needed to be closed because of ageing infrastructure, with an implication that our pool is a health and safety risk.  The pool was not a big enough health and safety risk five years ago to stop them from giving us a lease and in that time we have managed to do a number of structural repairs within the confines of our limited budget and short term lease.   The fact is we are unable to make long term plans for further improvement to the pool infrastructure without a longer lease.  We have been hamstrung by council for five years.  In that time we have proven ourselves capable of running the pool, improving patronage and providing a very clean and safe environment for our community to enjoy.  This is backed up by numbers through the gate.  We have  a vision for the pool which we can only implement if we have longer guaranteed tenure.  We have all worked hard on a voluntary basis to make this pool the success it is today. We deserve a fair go, need to be able to focus on the future, not just fight for survival.  

Kylie McIndoe, Golden Square

I have been involved with Golden Square Pool since the initial Save our Pool, and believe that by closing our facility, councillors will be taking a step backwards in terms of promoting the very thing they advocate for – community.  In the five years since our team took over operation of the pool, we have seen the facility become transformed – not just in terms of aesthetics, but in the formation of a place where people feel as though they belong. In 2012, our suburb was lacking any real place where individuals could meet, catch up with friends, and unite – yet since then, our pool has become that place. 

It’s where parents and young children come to spend an afternoon, families bring down dinner and catch up with friends, and individuals swim laps for health and fitness. Yet, if councillors vote to close our facility, then all that, and so much more, will be lost forever.

It’s absurd for council to think Golden Square families would travel to any other facility to meet people who live right by them, when they have our pool, the second least subsidised in the entire Bendigo municipality, literally on their doorstep. Our pool is also in line with council’s own support for 10 Minute Neighbourhoods, and having everything you need within walking distance to your own property. Forcing residents to drive somewhere else is hypocritical to that own plan – not to mention will create more problems including the increase in traffic on our roads, therefore exacerbating the plight of climate change and environmental issues.

It makes sense to keep our facility open, and to continue building and developing that sense of community that has been near non-existent in our suburb in the past. 

Sam Kane, Golden Square Pool Committee of Management

As a long term resident of Golden Square I have watched with joy as I have seen our pool (which suffered from council neglect for so long) given new life by a hard working group of community people. The pool now looks great. The surrounds are well maintained, the water is always clean and the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. The achievements of the pool committee in providing such a safe, relaxed, outdoor recreational centre (which is used for so much more than just swimming) are a great example of healthy, positive community engagement. Isn't that what councils want from their communities? Instead of undermining the efforts of these people with short term leases, threats of closure and unfounded insinuations about potential structural safety issues (which have not been researched or verified) the council would do better to support them and use their achievements as an exemplary model of positive and vibrant community action for others to emulate.

Jenny Foote, Golden Square

I am from Queensland: I visit Bendigo on a frequent basis. I am able to attend meetings with the fantastic team - working so hard to keep this pool up and going, I wasn't able to attend the Australia Day - what a resounding success that was. I specifically visited Bendigo to support the Sat.10/2 - a wonderful evening . Once again the families and children arrived - over 900! Sat, relaxed, sang , danced. Unfortunately nowadays , areas like this are no longer available. Please Council, keep this pool open. I noticed one heading with Councils  Vision logo -

'Greater Bendigo creating the worlds most livable  community'  – This can be done by allowing families to continue to enjoy the Golden Square pool.  Sit, relax, enjoy, have fun with the children in a safe environment. Families - let us all get together and keep this pool up and going !

Annie Morrison, Gympie

Here’s some info re the community run Golden Square Pool.

Council does not maintain the Golden Square Pool, the committee does! Council has paid zero for maintenance of the GS pool for the last five years and under the current lease arrangement will pay zero into the future. All maintenance has been paid for by the voluntary pool committee.

Council does pay for maintenance of every other pool in the City of Greater Bendigo! The maintenance cost to council for the other 10 pools over the last five years would be a lot. Cost for GS Pool = Nil

On any objective assessment the Golden Square Pool should be the last pool closed in the City of Bendigo!

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate that council staff applauded and encouraged the committee for their ongoing maintenance of a council asset instead of trying to close it. I don’t think there would be many precedents for this situation.

In 2012 council staff said the reason they wanted the pool closed was because it was too expensive to run and the patronage was low. The year before it was closed it had a seasonal patronage of around 1800 people while being run by the YMCA. This has all changed now. In the hands of the community committee the current season is already up to 15,723 people with a lot of the season still to go. It also has the second most popular VicSwim program in the entire state of Victoria.

In the hands of the community the pool has gone from one of the most expensive to the lowest subsidy cost per patron visit of all the seasonal pools in the city of Greater Bendigo. When the ‘open all year’ pools are included it is still the second lowest subsidy cost. At a total cost of $50,000 it is excellent value for the rate payers.

The scaremongering by a council director re the safety of the Golden Square Pool is very concerning. Before the pool was opened by the community in 2013  it complied with the requirements of a current Lifesaving Victoria audit. How many of the other pools in the City of Greater Bendigo have been audited by Lifesaving Victoria? At the time the pool was opened in 2013 Golden Square Pool was the only one.

It seems very strange that some council staff are so persistent at wanting the pool to be closed.

What possible alternate use of the site that would be of greater benefit to the community than the existing pool?

In my previous role as president of the pool committee I had been told many times the real reason behind the council staff wanting the pool to be closed was because the Golden Square Cricket Club want the pool land to build new practice cricket nets and pitches. Many other people have heard the same claims.

I understand the Golden Square Cricket Club some years ago (before 2012) had plans drawn up to use the Golden Square Pool land for this purpose. Apparently council staff have denied this is true but I and others have heard it too many times. I see this as the only reason council staff would be so persistent with it’s closure. All other reasons put up by council staff are either factually incorrect or just don’t make sense.

The use of the land for practice cricket pitches/nets would be a gross under utilization of the site compared to it’s current use as a community run pool.

I urge everyone who can to meet at 5.30pm this Wednesday at Bendigo Library Gardens and then attend the 6pm council meeting. Also please email/phone the councillors and let them know how you feel about the Golden Square Pool. I also urge all councillors to support and encourage the amazing committee and volunteers and vote to keep this pool running into the future.

Ken Hamilton, Shelbourne

Since 1877, the people of Golden Square have had to fight council to have what was readily granted to the residents of Bendigo – an outdoor aquatic facility. Even in 1918 when the Golden Square Baths were finally opened before an enthusiastic crowd of around 2000 people, the Mayor of the day, Cr Abbott begrudgingly admitted that the council had been reluctant to spend the money, believing it to be “so much waste of money” and so it had come as “quite a revelation” to see how popular the baths had quickly become. It seems that some decision-makers have failed to learn from the lessons of history and are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Cr Abbott conceded that “If every boy and girl learned to swim, the baths will have been of incalculable benefit to the district and the country in general.” And so they have been for many, many years.

With the benefit of hindsight we can look back to those pioneer days and find it almost humorous that council continually shirked its responsibility to the people of Golden Square with flimsy excuses and distraction tactics, yet here we are 100 years later and council is still playing the same games.

All this talk of “ageing facilities” and “drain on taxpayers” is more of the smoke and mirrors that saw us lose the Princess and Lyric Theatres and almost lose the Capital Theatre, Town Hall and Shamrock Hotel. The people of Bendigo have plenty of experience seeing their hard-earned money wasted by council, yet money invested to ensure the long-term future of a popular and vital asset, a stake in a healthy community which is the Golden Square Pool seems beyond the imagination of these council advisors.

In a ludicrous twist, the “over provision of aquatic facilities” actually includes those pools in Heathcote, Elmore, Goornong, Raywood and Marong. Furthermore, since Bendigo is an inland city, far from the sea, lakes and major rivers and a place of long, hot summers with low rainfall and frequent drought, the emphasis on “over provision” is hard to understand.

As outlined in council’s Greater Bendigo Housing Strategy, January 2018, one of the nine principles to promote healthy communities is the importance of “shared facilities that enhance opportunities for physical activity and enhancement of wellbeing and community interaction and cohesion.” This phrase could perfectly describe the atmosphere created at the Golden Square Pool.

Over the past five years, the Golden Square Pool has become much more than a place to swim, to cool off or to exercise. It has become a park, the backyard for so many, the shady spot to read a book, a meeting place, a safe hangout for kids, a community hub.

The recent success of two major community events at Golden Square Pool; Australia Day and Summer in the Parks, showed the pool has become the beating heart of the neighbourhood, a gathering place. The ownership and love that has developed was demonstrated by the way that people without exception, cleaned up before going home. Think about the carnage left behind in the Rosalind Park or at Lake Weeroona and you gain an insight into the respect people have for this facility.

Child Friendly Cities need actual child friendly places and Golden Square has very few places which match that description. So few parks, open spaces and community spaces. We do have one place that is fantastic - the Golden Square Pool. We all love it. Let’s keep it for the next generation, particularly those who are growing up without backyards, without green grass and without a reason to go outside and play with their friends.

Let’s not do something that future generations will shake their heads in disbelief over. Let’s keep this wonderful place and enjoy it, enhance it and make sure it lasts another 100 years.

Barbara Lomas, Golden Square

The gall of council officers and staff never ceases to astound.

The rumour mill abounds with stories about not only the Golden Square Pool, but also the demise of the  White Hills and Brennan Park Pools.

Council officers are refusing to implement the 2009 Strathfieldsaye Community Plan, endorsed and voted on by council for a pool which was to built in the "next five years". So much for councils commitment to that one.

Now we have the Taj Mahal at Kangaroo Flat the panacea to all our concerns. Take a look at the following:

Council  (ratepayers) has contributed more than $10M towards construction of the Taj Mahal.

The estimated $35-$40MM spent on planning, preparation and building the Taj Mahal could have been better spent maintaining and providing new pools for the growing populations of Marong, Huntly and Strathfieldsaye.

Council did not include any provisions for depreciation of the Taj Mahal over its life expectancy. (Probably about $750,000.00 per year)

Council costing did not include any provisions for interest on the amount borrowed or the lost opportunity for investing the $10M on roads, other pools and other important services demanded by ratepayers

The $1M promised by the Kangaroo Flat Enterprise Group has failed to materialise.

Oh and I failed to mention how council ignored the objections of more than 3000 Kangaroo Flat Residents and went ahead and destroyed the $4M Kangaroo Flat Community Leisure Centre.

I might end about there and refer readers to largesse being spent on the Taj Mahal compared to piddling amounts needed to keep Community Committee of Management Pools like Golden Square. East Bendigo and White Hills Pools running. $1M in the scheme of things here is miniscule. 

The real rationale for the council officer and councillor focus is that, as I have argued in the past, many pools must eventually close so that the Taj Mahal survives no matter what the cost. Despite what council officers say in their report, it won't be a 2.5 Km trip for Strathfieldsaye children and families to attend the Taj Mahal.  How will the council officers dismiss that one?

In my opinion this could be the beginning of the end of the long history of Bendigo Pools.

Council created its own problem of too many pools by their decision to build the Taj Mahal. Council should have taken a leaf out of Albury/Wodonga's Council book who courageously rejected the expense on another indoor pool.

I hope residents unleash or real storm of protest against this council and council officers to ensure these valuable community assets are retained.

At Wednesday's meeting councillors must vote against the council officers recommendations.

Colin Burns, Strathfieldsaye

More letters to the editor: Can be found here