Pittwater locals push for an aquatic centre
Pittwater swimmers are pushing for an aquatic centre with an Olympic-sized 50 metre pool to be installed in the area, claiming the closest ones at Manly and Warringah aquatic centres are too far to travel.
Local residents, including Bayview’s Geoff Ross, are lobbying Northern Beaches Council, federal and state members to initiate planning for a Pittwater aquatic centre, and have garnered support from local sporting groups, schools and businesses.
“It’s expected those from Pittwater should travel all the way to Manly Aquatic Centre or Warringah Aquatic Centre. This is not acceptable,” says Mr Ross.
“Swimming is one of the best forms of activity for those with advancing age, people with disabilities and those rehabilitating.
“These people cannot use playing fields for exercise. Younger people who want to train, athletes, school groups and those who want to play water-based sports such as water polo all need access to a suitable swimming venue.”
While Pittwater is teeming with ocean pools, he claims they don’t cater to these groups, nor are large enough or useable in winter and bad weather, explaining, “They have no lanes marked, so even in summer, half a dozen lap swimmers will have space and direction problems.”
Mr Ross has been campaigning for an aquatic centre since he attended Pittwater Council’s Open Space and Recreation Strategy Workshop in 2012, where the matter was prominent and attendees were informed the cost of a full indoor complex with heated Olympic pool, restaurant, kiosk and child-minding facilities was estimated at $16 million.
The final report, Pittwater Public Space and Recreation Strategy 2014, reveals swimming is the second most common exercise activity in the region, and a pool is high on the list of needs of the community, yet the recommendations in the report make no mention of it.
“No consideration is given in this report to the need for a swimming venue,” says Mr Ross.
“The Northern Beaches Sportsground Strategy 2017 also gives no consideration to the need for a swimming venue in Pittwater. This type of facility is essential in any community and a lack of planning in the past is no excuse for lack of planning now.”
Mr Ross has been communicating with Northern Beaches Council and local MPs, who are backing him, with Pittwater MP Rob Stokes telling Peninsula Living, “It’s a fantastic concept that many people would be interested in. The largest hurdle is of course the significant upfront and ongoing operational costs – and this can be a major red flag for councils.
Mackellar MP Jason Falinski agrees, saying, “I absolutely would support the construction of an aquatic centre and have been in discussions with Mr Ross about it,” he says. “I would encourage this to be built at the Institute of Sport in Narrabeen.
“It makes the most sense to add it there, turning the site into a real sporting hub of Pittwater.”
While local swimmers are hoping for an aquatic centre nearer the tip of the peninsula, Mr Ross believes another location large enough to accommodate both an aquatic centre and playing fields is the Pittwater Golf Centre Driving Range at North Narrabeen. Leased from Council, the 4.5 hectares of land is near parking facilities and transport.
“This is just one possible site,” he adds. “There are many playing fields in the Pittwater area, but no swimming venue. According to the Pittwater Public Open Space and Recreation Strategy 2014, in the North Narrabeen area alone, there are a total of 27 hectares of sportsgrounds (including the golf centre).
Northern Beaches Council says building a new aquatic centre is not a priority now, with Mayor Michael Regan telling Peninsula Living, “A new aquatic facility [in the Pittwater area] would require an extremely large rate-payer investment. Council’s focus is investing in the upgrade and repair of existing basic infrastructure projects, including the accelerated footpath program, stormwater repairs, Mona Vale Surf Club delivery and North Narrabeen sporting facilities, just to name a few.”