PARENTS fear the treacherous waters of the irrigation channels will become replacement swimming pools for Campaspe's youth, if council goes ahead with a proposal to close nearly every municipal pool.
Councillors will vote on Wednesday night on a proposal to close and decommission Colbinabbin, Lockington, Rushworth, Stanhope and Tongala pools at the end of the current outdoor pool season.
The Kyabram and Rochester pools are recommended to be decommissioned at the end of the 2024/25 pool season.
Life Saving Victoria has warned that childhood drownings across the state are at a 20-year high. General manager for education at Life Saving Victoria, Kate Simpson, said intermittent lockdowns had forced many children to skip swimming classes.
"Since the start of the pandemic, 160,000 children have missed up to 5.9 million swimming lessons," she said.
"Tragically the statistics in the 2020-21 Victorian Drowning Report reflect this with 15 of the 61 fatal drownings in Victoria during this period involving children aged 0-14 years. This is four times the 10-year average."
Murray Plains MP Peter Walsh said swimming lessons at public pools were vital to reducing inland drownings.
"I'm very concerned the council is not supporting those communities that have pools - other than Echuca - to keep them,'' he said.
"The council has some responsibility to maintain the amenities in those communities. Having the opportunity to learn to swim is a part of that - and you can't do that without a pool."
Colbinabbin mother-of-three Carlie Ryan said there were a lot of drowning hazards in the district.
"The pool was built to address the issue of kids drowning in the channels,'' she said.
The proposal before council recommends retaining only the indoor Echuca War Memorial Aquatic Centre.
"The closure of the identified pools would see an avoided cost of approximately $10.8 million over five years," it stated.
The proposal blamed the cost of maintaining the seven outdoor pools for the threatened closures.
"The most significant challenge is the age of the outdoor pool facilities," the proposal states.
"On average the age of the pools is 50-plus years and ranges from 18 to 85 years old."
The proposal recommends allocating the equivalent of five years of operational funding to each of the communities that have pools decommissioned, to spend on other assets. It would assign the lowest amount to Colbinabbin - at $421,918 - and the highest amount to Kyabram at $2,087,385.
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