Does Wellington need or want a new large swimming pool?


Some people want a new competition pool, but do we need it ? In 2010/11 Council ultimately said ‘no’. A 50 metre Kilbirnie pool was then estimated to cost $25 million with annual operating costs of $2.8– 3.5 million (after entry income). A 35 metre pool came in at $20 million, with $2.3-2.9 million operating costs. Officials estimated only 56,000 more swims annually, with eye-watering costs to the ratepayer of between $43 and 60 per swim.

We have invested some $30 million over the last decade on upgrading Council pools, headlined by ‘Spray’ and Keith Spry’s redevelopment along with $2.5 million on upgrading and saving several school pools, (some still under reconstruction). We have deliberately focused on learn-to-swim.

Pools are already failing to achieve Council’s 40% user funding target (ie 60% ratepayer funding). Despite all the investment, and 25% population growth (2001-13), patronage has barely moved. 1.1 million people swam at Council pools in 2001/2, it hit 1.3 million in 2008/9/10 and is now 1.2 million. Interest and depreciation on those capital investments, increased utility and personnel costs including ‘Living Wage’, have increased the subsidy per swim from $5.50 to $11.10. Individual pools performance varies with Freyberg and Karori easily the best performers. School pools delivered an additional 68,000 lessons last year (an excellent $1.80 per lesson for Council).

A big new pool simply fails the value-for-money test.

 

 

 

 

 

Does Wellington need or want a new large swimming pool ?

There is clearly some aspiration for a large competition pool, but bluntly it fails the value for money test. In 2010/11 Council ultimately decided against it. A 50 metre pool at WRAC was then estimated to cost $25 million and $2.8– 3.5 million per year net (after entry payments) to operate. A 35 metre pool came in at $20 million and $2.3-2.9 million operating cost. It was estimated to increase annual swimming numbers by only 56,000, with eye-watering costs to the ratepayer per swim of between $43 and 60. It simply failed the value for money test.

We have invested some $30 million over the last decade on Council pools, headlined by Spray and Keith Spry redevelopment along with $2.5 million on upgrading and saving several school pools. Some like Wellington East Girls are under reconstruction. We have deliberately focused on learn to swim.

Pools are currently struggling to achieve the 40% user funding target set by Council (ie 60% ratepayer funding). Despite all the investment, and 25% population growth (2001-13), total annual use levels have barely moved over the last 15 years. Total swimming pool use 2001/2 was 1,1 million it hit 1.3 million in 2008/9/10 and is now 1.2 million. The costs of those capital investments (interest and depreciation, increased personnel costs including the ‘Living Wage’, and utility costs have increased the subsidy per swim from $5.50 to $11.00. The school pools did deliver an additional 68,000 lessons last year – a rough cost to Council of about $1.80 per lesson. Consistently the best performing Council pools are Freyberg and Karori both in numbers and ratepayer cost per swimmer.

 

2009/10 1,315,568

 

Growth slower than population growth.

Pool 2009/10 patronage Subsidy per swim 2009/10 2014/15 full year patronage 2015/16 – seven months to Jan 16
WRAC 566,284 $9.29 600,875 271,632
Freyberg 228,124 $3.24 216,217 119,526
Karori 203,641 $5.35 203,395 116,116
Keith Spry 136,360 $9.41 62,266* 112,265
Tawa 127,972 $10.05 101,737 53,676
Thorndon 36,211 $11.16 37,201 29,390
Khandallah 16,976 $11.60 12,592 6,802
*122,890 in 2012/13

 

Capital Upgrade Spend 2005 – 15 – $30 million – biggest items being Spray (WRAC) and Keith Spry pool, also WRAC hydrotherapy, Karori learner and Tawa roof. $15 m for renewals. $2.5 million in one off grants for school pools of which several including Wgtn East Girls are yet to come on stream. School pools generated 68,391 lessons in 2014/15 – at 5% interest cost equates to $1.83 per lesson.

Total Revenue Total Expenditure Revenue per visitor Subsidy per visitor
2005 $5 million $13.5 million $3.50 $5.50
2015 $7.5 million $20 million $5.50 $11.00

 

Big drivers for cost increase – depreciation and interest from capital costs, personnel – including ‘Living Wage’, and utility costs.

 

Population 2001 – 162,981

Population 2013 – 204,000

 

Users of a new pool were expected to cover only between 14% and 19% of ongoing costs – leaving the rest to be paid by ratepayers. From my notes at the time the calculation was a ratepayer subsidy of approximately $43 per swimmer per swim. (56,000 extras) $3.4m / 56,000 = $60.71 ! Another calculation $51.76 !