Community & Environment

Hamilton ‘under-laned’ when it comes to swimming

Hamilton is “desperately under-laned” when it came to swimming facilities, with insufficient swimming lanes for a growing population, says Mark Bunting, Chair of Hamilton City Council’s Community Committee.

Cr Bunting was commenting during yesterday’s (24 June 2020) consideration by the Committee of a report on the Municipal Pools in Victoria St.

The Municipal Pools were closed in 2012. In June 2015, Hamilton City Council voted to permanently close them due to safety and structural concerns.

The Council applied in February 2019 for a resource consent to demolish the pools. The consent process included a two-day hearing in November 2019, chaired by an independent commissioner.

Yesterday staff reported the Council had received consent for demolition. The consent is valid for five years.

In his decision, the commissioner noted the site “has reached such a stage of deterioration that it is considered unviable and impractical to refurbish it for public swimming purposes”. The staff report said the existing buildings were unstable and unsafe.

One of the conditions of the resource consent is preparation of a site restoration and interpretation plan (SRIP) by an independent party.

That process will include workshops with the people and groups who made submissions to the resource consent hearing with the aim of capturing the pools’ social history and ideas on how this can be reflected in the site’s restoration.

Council staff noted possibilities included the use of salvaged materials in the site’s redesign and plaques and signs acknowledging Municipal Pools personalities.

The Municipal Pools were built in 1912 and have a Category B Heritage ranking in the Operative Hamilton City District Plan.

The Community Committee approved the preparation of a site restoration and interpretation plan and detailed design for demolition of the pools in 2021/22.

Councillors noted development of the Municipal Pools site and the wider issue of Hamilton’s aquatic provision would be decided through the 2021-31 Long-Term Plan process.

Cr Bunting said the city’s aquatic offering needed to be addressed as a priority. “We will be working hard to put a very strong aquatic plan in place before the Long-Term Plan.”

Councillors referred the issue of the future of the Municipal Pools site to the Central City and River Plan Advisory Group chaired by Deputy Mayor Geoff Taylor, noting it was important the future of the site was considered as part of central city rejuvenation plans.

Demolition of the pools was budgeted through the 2018-28 Long-Term Plan. Several advocates for the preservation of the pools presented at the public forum before yesterday’s meeting.

The Community Committee also approved further community feedback on the location of the city’s first fenced dog park.

The new dog park could be incorporated into an existing park with three options to be put to the public: Resthills Park in Glenview, Tauhara Park in Callum Brae and Minogue Park in Forest Lake. The parks are already designated off-leash spaces. Innes Common is no longer being considered after feedback from residents last year and further investigation of options.

Providing more areas to exercise dogs is a key part of Hamilton’s plan to be a dog-friendly city. Results from the feedback process will come back to the Community Committee for consideration.

Speaking on Hamilton’s community-led Age Friendly Plan, Dame Peggy Koopman-Boyden encouraged Councillors to consider the needs of older people in all the decisions they made on behalf of the community.

She said they should be loud and proud about the Age Friendly Plan. It was a major factor in Hamilton becoming the first New Zealand city to be included in the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age Friendly Cities and Communities.

“We’re the youngest city in the country with the most progressive age-friendly plan,” Cr Bunting noted.

The Hamilton Age Friendly Group, chaired by Dame Peggy, monitors progress against the plan, which is a collaborative effort involving more than 20 organisations.

The Committee will receive an update from staff by the end of 2020 on options for reviewing the plan. A staff report noted most of the actions in the plan were started or completed.

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