Katoomba outdoor pool could close

Down the drain: Katoomba's 50m outdoor pool hangs in the balance with a draft proposal to fill it in and turn it into a playground to save the council money.
Down the drain: Katoomba's 50m outdoor pool hangs in the balance with a draft proposal to fill it in and turn it into a playground to save the council money.

Katoomba’s outdoor pool would be shut and replaced with a children’s outdoor adventure playground under a draft plan to be revealed at this month’s council meeting.

Two meetings have been held in recent months with the councillors discussing the future of the pools in the Mountains, which cost $7million in total to operate annually, and are subsidised by council to the tune of $2.91 million. 

It is understood that while Glenbrook and Springwood pay for themselves, Lawson, Blackheath and Katoomba [outdoor] are considered a financial drain.

“The change is Katoomba [outdoor pool], that’s the only closure,” a council source told the Gazette.

The information about the mooted closure is outlined in the final draft of the Open Space and Recreation Strategic Plan which will be part of the usual council business papers. It is expected to be available online from tomorrow [Wednesday October 11].  The plan informs the decisions for investment in future maintenance and planning of all council open space and recreational facilities – parks, sportsgrounds, leisure centres, walking tracks and bushland reserves.

If councillors approve the report at next week’s meeting it will be placed on public exhibition where full costings for the plan will be revealed and the community will have the chance to comment.

The source said the 45-year-old Katoomba pool was “very old and crumbling underneath” and would require a serious injection of funds to repair.

Mayor Mark Greenhill refused to rule out that any meeting took place to discuss the future of the Upper Mountains swimming pools but said “if council was considering making any changes to services we would consult with the community first … we always endeavour to provide best possible services to meet the needs of the Mountains community within available resources”.

But the Gazette understands that first special planning meeting of council was held on a weekend in August to discuss possible changes in service delivery in a bid to keep costs down.

At that meeting a range of services were discussed and the primary topic was swimming pools – the focus was on the smaller pool in Blackheath and the outdoor Katoomba swimming pool, which the Gazette understands does not turn a profit. 

An argument was made that the Mountains has six pools, whereas much bigger local government areas had only one or two – and it was unsustainable to keep multiple pools open. 

Some councillors at the meeting expressed concerns about pool closures.  A further meeting was held last week where the focus was squarely on shutting Katoomba to save money.

Council has not released itemised data on each pool’s profits and losses to the Gazette but In 2017/18, council has budgeted to subsidise the operating costs of its aquatic and leisure centre service by $3.39 million.

A council spokeswoman said the draft plan was developed over a “considerable period of time with extensive research and consultation”. She refused to be drawn on the future of the pools.

She did confirm after questions by the Gazette, that the councillors met on a Saturday in late August for a workshop to “progress the council’s strategic priorities”.

“This type of meeting is not unusual, happening once or twice a year, and on a needs basis if required. This is the third such workshop of the current council with previous workshops in November 2016 and March 2017.”

“The council has six clearly defined strategic priorities for 2017-2021 that it wants the organisation to focus and deliver. These strategic priorities were reaffirmed by council at its meeting in June. One of the six strategic priorities is to commence the strategic review of the service levels that the council provides to inform future decision making and priorities.”

The spokeswoman said it was about the council achieving “improved long term financial sustainability”.

“It is important for council to review and understand the needs of the community to make sure services and assets are relevant and delivered in an equitable, efficient and effective way.”