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Adiós Thames Swimming Pool

The glorious sleight of hand practised by our Council in developing its Long Term Plan is no better exemplified than in the manner in which it has succeeded in effectively wiping the replacement of the Thames Swimming Pool off the Plan and out the door.

Look beyond all the fine words that disguise this fact, and you will see the less than subtle manner in which Strat and his team of neophytes have been completely subsumed by the Eastern Seaboard majority (+Coromandel) who have managed to get just about all their projects into the Plan.

By way of background here is my (rough!) time line:

Circa 1970 - Thames Centennial pool built on wahi tapu (urupa) land over the objections of Ngati Maru whose children have been largely self-excluded from the pool to this day. The absolute undertaking provided to Ngati Maru at the time of building was that it would be removed when upkeep on this site became impractical.   

2009 - Engineering report obtained that indicated a maximum economic life of 10 years due to major leakage problems, and inability in any case to enlarge the pool on this site. Ngati Maru takes note, with satisfaction, and looks forward to removal of the pool, but indicated that while accepting the need for repairs, under no circumstances would it permit renewal of the pool on its present site (personal conversation with Ngati Maru chief executive - David Taipari

2011 - Current staff claimed to have received a further engineering report that current pool leakage problems were manageable, and that renewal by 2020 was no longer necessary. This report has never been made public, nor a definitive date announced. 

2012 - $5m provided in the 2012 LTP for the first stage of the Pool Replacement for the 2020/21 year.

2015 - $5m removed from the 2015 LTP for Pool Replacement, and at the same time, and after years of agitation, the tiny group calling themselves Zoom Zone manage to inveigle Council into providing them with $4.15m in 2015/16 for the purpose of building an indoor stadium to cater for the needs of a very small proportion of the Thames population. At the same time, the TUGPRA Account that had so patiently built up to $2.5m for the prime purpose of assisting in 2020 with the replacement of the Pool when it would have been in the region of $5m, was burgled with the connivance of the entire Community Board to provide the majority of its contribution to the indoor facility - $2.1m. 

This piece of outright larceny was perpetrated right under the noses of both the Council and Community Board, and with the support of the only person on that Board who had full knowledge of the situation - namely its Chair - Strat Peters. 

Now, if you appreciate the meaning of weasel words, consider this - here is the wording on the matter taken from p.29 of the fancy new LTP document for 2015/2025 published this week, and subject to "public discussions" with our local Board and Council members on Monday (16 March), and Council consultation on 28 April: 

"The current swimming pool in Thames is due for a significant renewal programme in 2021."

Council proposes investigating the development (my bold!) of a 50m. pool as a replacement for the current Pool as a new sub-regional aquatic centre. Such a facility would operate on a different scale to the current, locally focused  pool and would likely only be feasible if there was community and financial support for the proposal from the whole District and wider sub-region.(my bold!)

The Plan includes a budget of $175k to upgrade the pool in 2020/21. It also includes $53k in 2017/18 to "fund the research, concept design, economic feasibility and consultation regarding a sub-regional facility."

Note - not a mention of having removed the $5m. from this year's Plan, nor the statement by the CEO at the meeting that adopted the draft that future major works in the Plan would not be funded until the "business case is adopted by Council" - contrary by my understanding with regard to the requirements of the Act in relation to the LTP - a matter brought to the attention of the Auditor General, but ignored in the extremely courteous reply forwarded to me. 

Of course the emptying of the TUGPRA Account will influence the "economic feasibility" of the proposed new pool quite dramatically, but read the wording closely, and you will see that the chances of a new pool in Thames to serve the entire region is as likely as a Regional Opera House in Pollen Street. These people are simply not serious about this proposal - they appear to have done nothing to sound out the possibility with our intensely parochial neighbours. In fact, the whole proposal is pie in the sky, and as Paeroa is said to be already promoting its own version of a regional all-weather facility, they are unlikely to tread water (forgive the pun) until 2030, or whenever our lot get round to digging dirt!

The sop to Thames rate-payers lies in the stated intention to preserve the residual amount in the TUGPRA Account ($500k) and its future income, for the Pool - but that is or will be demonstrably insufficient for the purpose, and does not protect it from future raids to fund the inevitable Zoom Zone over-runs. Council should provide as a bare minimum whatever legal protection it has available to protect the Account from future raids by the Zoom Zone people who have proven so adept at acquiring this Thames 'nest-egg'.

This whole thing has been pushed through in the face of uncertain but indicative engineering advice, and it is reflective of the manner in which our Board has been pushed around and disadvantaged through the ambitions of our neighbours to the East. It is almost inconceivable that this could have happened on Strat Peters watch - he has several times in the past declared his absolute support for swimming pool priority in obtaining access to the TUGPRA Account.

It is not overstating the case to suggest that what has happened amounts to a total betrayal, and I say that in full knowledge of what has gone on in the past, and from having worked alongside Strat for at least the three years while on Council. It is nothing short of disgraceful, and the entire Council (and staff for that matter) are culpable in having allowed this outcome.    

Thames rate-payers need to show a bit of spine, and stand up for their rights – I hope they do, instead of getting themselves worked up about a privately owned cremator that may or may not eventuate.





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Reader Comments (2)

I don't suppose we could have both by any chance???

March 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGreedy

I am just as committed to the replacement swimming pool as you are. It will be a challenge and probably unaffordable unless we can position as a subregional facility with district input. Thames could not afford a $15- $18 m plus facility on its own which is what it would cost regardless of TUGPRA
The $5m was removed from the 10 year plan with the view that a sub regional facility be investigated....sooner rather than later. I will be asking the questions as well if thei investigation does not get into full swing by October 2016 and we need to watch this one...the full investigation is planned for 17/18 year and this needs to come forward or some assurances in the know what politics can be like...esp with things going on from the East. I want to see matters in full swing during the 16/17 year or the re-instatement of the $5m in out 10 year. I will be seeking this in discussions with Greg and TCB and the upcoming LTP and how to best approach.I know their has been favourable discussions with Hauraki District thus far.

I am happy to listen to any input from you with respect to getting a replacement pool to the finish line...we are together on this one Bill and should not say some of the things you are saying about med....they distort my committed to do my very best for Thames


March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStrat Peters

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