Council decisions on a community swimming pool
28 February 2019
A pool working group was formed in December 2018 to help Council make a final decision about a pool for the Kaikōura community. The working group was asked to review all the information and work to date, identify any other options for a pool, and discuss and agree how community fundraising and other funding could work and how long it may take.
The working group met in mid-February to look at the costs of the options being considered (indoor pool, uncovered outdoor pool, covered outdoor pool) and the options around finances and fundraising.
There are lots of ways to make a pool affordable - fundraising, rates, grants, in-kind donations and community efforts, what matters is understanding how long the community is willing to wait and how much they are willing to pay. From there, Council and the working group can 'fill in the blanks' and make sensible and realistic decisions based on good information.
The most recent meeting was another step forward but also highlighted that Council staff and the working group have a lot of work left to do before we have the information we need to be able to work together to make good decisions.
The working group felt strongly that a pool is needed immediately in the community but that a repair of the existing pool is not suitable to meet the needs of the community. A rebuild of a similar pool in the same site remains a viable option, especially as part of a staged project where roofing or other improvements could be added over time.
Council staff and working group members are now working hard to find and consider all the missing information before the next meeting in mid-March. This includes looking at several nearby examples of pools to see what they cost and how the projects to build them were run, rechecking how much Council can contribute and how much a pool on a different site would add to the total project cost.
What happened at the meeting?
An independent financial expert had reviewed all available information and presented his findings. The key themes were:
- Pools nationwide do not usually come in on budget. Best practice is to set a budget that allows for things to go wrong, to take longer or to be improved as the project develops.
- Fundraising often takes longer than expected and sponsorship often has short-term appeal for projects (like pools) that, over time become seen as Council facilities.
- At this stage in any project, all costs are estimates. These estimates can often change as much as 30% up or down.
- The SRRLT proposal for an indoor pool was good quality but assumed very high levels of funding would be found.
- The major issue for Council is the annual cost generated by any pool. The annual costs are made up of running costs (operational/opex) plus the interest on any associated debt. These costs could range from $182,000 - $1,500,000 depending on the option and site chosen, fundraising, grants and sponsorship secured.
- The rates impact of funding this cost would be determined by Councils rating policy.
DIA (Department of Internal Affairs) staff also attended the working group meeting, to help the working group understand what funding may be available from Lotteries. Two core funds can be considered for the pool project:
- The Lottery Hurunui Kaikōura Marlborough Community Facilities Earthquake Fund (the CFEQ Fund); and
- The Lottery Community Facilities Fund.
DIA recommended Kaikōura make an application to the first fund within 6 months to give us the best chance of securing the funding. However, to do that, all major decisions (like the pool type, funding and site) need to be made before making an application.
It is likely that funding of around $900,000 could be available through the CFEQ Fund. This figure comes from the amount that it would cost to repair the existing pool at the existing location (currently estimated to be $1.2 million), minus the insurance monies ($300,000).
All other associated costs to rebuild (not repair) a pool (such as site preparation at a new location), would not be covered and would need to be fund-raised, covered by Council of funded from other sources.
Although there are other Lotteries funds, they are very competitive and pool applications are not normally successful.
The working group also discussed what Council could contribute to a pool. Council has already indicated its willingness to contribute land if possible.
Under Councils financial strategy and with all the other work and risks Council must take into account, Council may be able to contribute up to $1 million towards building a new pool in the short term. This is an estimate only, would require Council decisions and may come at a cost to ratepayers.
Council would also contribute an annual amount towards the running costs. There are a range of options for how Council could do this, all of which would need to understand what the community is willing to pay and what Councils other commitments and risks are.
Work is underway to get some usable estimates.
Restarting a trust for community facilities was discussed as an option for managing the pool project or the pool itself in the future. The working group will discuss this in more depth at their next meeting.
The working group agreed that Churchill Park should be removed as a potential site from all further pool discussions.
The existing swimming pool in Kaikōura on the Esplanade was closed in 2016 after it was damaged by the earthquake. Since then, Council has provided funding support for a temporary ‘pop-up’ pool. Work is ongoing to figure out the best long term solution for a community pool in Kaikōura.
28 February 2019