WA councils divided over pool re-openings, with swimming lessons still a distant target
“So trying to do that for 20 people at a time obviously becomes a very expensive subsidy per person,” Mayor Brad Pettitt said. “Twenty people for a large complex doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Dr Pettitt said the council was also hamstrung by the lack of space with its changing facilities, even with only 20 people per its indoor 25-metre lap pool and outdoor 50m lap pool.
“A part of our challenge is that our changing rooms are designed to be quite compact, people are quite close together and the one person per 4-square-metre rule doesn’t really work in the way that are changing rooms are designed,” he said.
“Twenty people for a large complex doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt
He said the council was assessing at what point it would become viable to re-open and if they would need to put in extra toilets.
“When we get to that 100 person per place it starts to work a lot better and I could imagine then you could actually have swimming lessons with groups of people and people doing their own laps and it would actually work relatively well while still maintaining the best you can at that kind of social distancing,” he said.
The City of Armadale is using the closures to instead improve the facilities.
“We have over 5000 AFAC members and pride ourselves on providing quality gym and aquatic experiences, we don’t want to compromise on the high standards we hold. Offering limited services to 20 people will make it impossible to ensure everyone has equitable and practical access,” Mayor Ruth Butterfield said.
“We appreciate everyone is keen to resume as much of ‘normal life’ as possible, but ask for patience as we get our facilities back up and running where it is safe, responsible and practical to do so.”
But the City of Stirling deputy mayor Bianca Sandri said it would not matter if it was “20 people, 50 people or 100 people we will open the facilities because ultimately it’s for the community”.
“The pool costs us money not open so there’s no reason why it can’t open, yes it will cost us money but it will always cost us money and it’s a service for the community and that’s what we’re wanting to provide and we’ll always continue to provide,” she said.
“The pool costs us money not open so there’s no reason why it can’t open.”
Stirling deputy mayor Bianca Sandri
Scarborough beach pool, however, will not reopen as it is undergoing early maintenance works.
Terry Tyzack Aquatic Centre and Leisurepark Balga will use a booking system, with one-hour time slots available for swimming laps and fitness classes, similar to the City of Mandurah which will reopen its $38 million aquatic centre on Wednesday.
“This is a public facility that is funded by the local government,” mayor Rhys Williams said.
“It’s really important that we get it open and that we do whatever we can to get people back into it and if that means that it’ll be tricky for us for a while then that’s just part of the burden that we have to carry.”
He’s hoping for swimming lessons to resume in the coming weeks since “teaching kids to swim is essential and being in the water is a big part of Mandurah”.
The City of Vincent will reopen Beatty Park to its current members for a trial run until June 5 in which include the 25m indoor pool, 50m outdoor pool and group fitness Studio 1.
“This is to ensure all users are contactable for tracing purposes as per the COVID Safe Plan. Memberships will remain on payment suspension during the trial operation phase,” a spokeswoman said.
The centre also only operates during the week for reduced hours and won’t be open on the WA Day public holiday, June 1.
“Since the announcement of the easing of restrictions, the team have been urgently working through the logistics of re-opening and it is our priority to provide a safe environment for all patrons and staff,” Mayor Emma Cole said.
“We are very excited to welcome our members back through the doors next Thursday and start being part of the community again.”
The City of Bayswater also has not recommenced membership fees despite reopening Bayswater Waves and The RISE recreation centres on Monday for limited hours.
“With reduced services on offer, all regular membership fees will remain on hold,” Mayor Dan Bull said.
“Instead, we’ll be charging $5 per fitness class or pool entry. This one off fee will allow any members who wish to use the facilities to do so, without putting unnecessary pressure on members who’d prefer not to.”
All updates can be found on the City’s website and on The RISE and Bayswater Waves Facebook pages.
Aja Styles is a digital culture editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.