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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1818


Mr SYMON (9:49 PM) —My grievance relates to the Ringwood Aquatic Centre and the current proposal by the Maroondah City Council to close this facility. This much loved and well used piece of community infrastructure was originally built in 1970 and it is the only covered 50-metre pool within the city of Maroondah. It was originally built as a 50-metre outdoor pool with a learners pool and a toddlers pool but has been substantially transformed since 1970. In 1986 the pool was covered with a roof and walls with moveable glass doors. Additionally, a diving pool, sauna, spa and new reception area were added. Later, in 1997 a health and activity pool with a moveable floor was built inside the facility.

In recent years, capital upgrades have been smaller in scale but have nevertheless provided improved infrastructure for the many users of the centre. This has included upgrades of the filtration system, upgrading the ozone treatment system, replacing the boilers used for heating and installing heat exchangers. In 2007 the spa and plunge pool were renovated and the chlorine generator was replaced in 2004. A reverse osmosis backwash water recycling system was installed in 2009 along with maintenance to the pool hall air-handling system. Also in 2009 the granulated rubber flooring to the pool concourse was replaced and the showers and flooring in the pool change rooms were upgraded. Additionally in 2009, retractable seats were installed in the pool hall and pool blankets were put in place for the indoor pools to save heating costs. There has also been an upgrade of the diving tower and in 2010 a federally funded co-generation plant was installed at the Ringwood centre.

Last year, Maroondah council put forward a plan to completely rebuild the aquatic centre from scratch on the same site in Ringwood. This facility was to be of a regional standard and would have substantially improved the experience of all users of the centre. But the price tag for the project was $48 million and it depended on attracting substantial funding from both the federal and state governments. This funding request was in the order of $20 million in total and to date the council have not been successful in attracting a commitment from either level of government to contribute the cost of the project.

The Ringwood Aquatic Centre is aged and somewhat tired but it is not broken. In fact, it is far from it. In 2008-09, the last attendance figures that I have available, the total attendance for the year was 287,426 people. It is true to say that this figure has declined in recent years but I have noted that much of this drop has been caused by the drop in school swimming lessons, with students down from 164,648 in 2004-05 to only 35,134 in 2008-09. Interestingly, for reasons that I am not yet aware of, this figure of school lessons at the pool dropped from 164,648 in 2004-05 to only 46,718 in 2005-06 and has declined only slightly each year since. It is almost stable.

A survey conducted for the council in 2009 found that 46 per cent of people using the Ringwood Aquatic Centre used it two to three times per week, with another 11 per cent using it four to six times per week and 3 per cent using it every day. This same survey found that 92 per cent of current users rated the facilities at Ringwood as adequate or better, which is a huge percentage when you think about it. Not everyone rated it excellent, not everyone rated it good, but it was 92 per cent if you put adequate, good and excellent together.

I acknowledge the work that Maroondah City Council have done in seeking to upgrade the Ringwood Aquatic Centre. By aiming to upgrade it to regional status they are definitely looking at the future needs of the community and the surrounding areas. But the proposal to close the Ringwood Aquatic Centre on 31 May this year has drawn much opposition from the local community and user groups. For instance, Dr Glen Chandler and other concerned local citizens have established the Ringwood Pool Action Group, or RPAG, and they have a website at www.saveringwoodpool.com. This group held a public meeting at the Ringwood Swimming Club on 15 February this year, and over 120 people attended the meeting to hear about the future of the Ringwood Aquatic Centre. Members of the Ringwood Diving Club, the Ringwood Swimming Club, the Ringwood Water Polo Club, the Ringwood Triathlon Club and the Nunawading Synchronised Swimming Club were all in attendance. I commend the fact that the council CEO, councillors and the mayor turned up and were there to discuss this issue with their community. This action shows that they are listening, and I encourage residents of Maroondah and the members of client and user groups to let the council know of their views on this issue.

I have received many letters of petition on this issue. Although they are not in a form that can be tabled in this House, I can convey an idea of the numbers involved. These figures are over two weeks old now, and I am sure they have grown in the intervening period. I have received 1,274 signatures in a copy form of a document calling on the council to keep Ringwood pool open whilst the closure of the Ringwood Aquatic Centre is delayed until a clear redevelopment plan is in place and saying that any alternative redevelopment plans must match or extend the existing facilities, those being a five-metre diving platform, a 50-metre lane pool, a heated health and activity pool and disabled access.

The Ringwood Swimming Club uses the pool. It has a very long history of success and has a national training group with swimmers competing at the highest level. This is a group that has received local sporting champion grants as well. It is a very successful local sporting club.

I have received 18 signatures from the Ringwood Triathlon Club calling for a similar measure. Also, I have received 50 signatures from the Ringwood Diving Club, again calling for the discontinuation of plans for closure until a clear alternative redevelopment plan is in place. There are two one-metre and two three-metre FINA-standard springboards and a five-metre platform at Ringwood Aquatic Centre. This is the only such facility in the region, and Surrey Park and the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre are many, many kilometres away. The Ringwood Diving Club uses these diving boards and has an active and vibrant club, all the members of which stand to lose their local diving facility.

I have received 158 signatures from Emma’s Babyswim, a user group that has been operating from the Ringwood Aquatic Centre for 15 years, which teaches very young children vital water survival skills. I have also received a copy of a letter from Darren Ross, director of the Physica spinal and physiotherapy clinic, which points out the value of the hydrotherapy pool that is used by 80 of their clients every week to assist with rehabilitation and pain management. I have even received a copy of a letter from Gillian Brooker, CEO of Diving NSW, praising the Ringwood Diving Club and the good indoor diving facilities that are on offer, which are lacking in southern New South Wales, which of course is several hundred kilometres to the north of the suburb of Ringwood.

If the Ringwood Aquatic Centre is closed, users will have to move to the council’s Croydon Leisure and Aquatic Centre, which only has a 25-metre pool and no diving boards. That pool is already very popular and very heavily used. Other alternatives are at Nunawading, Boronia and Box Hill, but all are a number of kilometres away and, again, they are already well used by their own local communities.

The Ringwood Aquatic Centre as it stands may not be the best pool in Melbourne, but it is Ringwood’s pool. It is not broken, but it does not make a profit. If that were the test for community facilities and they were judged by that criterion, many more may suffer the same potential fate. On behalf of the residents and user groups who have contacted me, I ask the Maroondah City Council to reconsider this decision to close the Ringwood Aquatic Centre and delay any closure until such time as ready-to-build plans and a start date for any redevelopment are in place. I thank the House for noting my grievance.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—Order! The time for the grievance debate has expired, and the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 192B. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.