Gungahlin residents are frustrated and confused about being kept in the dark over repairs to their swimming pool, closed for almost a year now, according to Gungahlin Community Council president Peter Elford.
“It would be easier if the government were more open,” Mr Elford said. “It’s been very difficult to get any information; it’s been late coming, and it’s been very thin.”
Opened in 2014 at a cost of $28 million (approx. $30.7 million today), the Gungahlin Leisure Centre’s 50-metre swimming pool was shut in March 2020 due to COVID-19; in June, while still closed, tiles began to fall off the pool. Gungahlin swimmers have been forced to use public pools in Civic, Dickson, Tuggeranong, or Stromlo, or the privately-owned Canberra International Sports and Aquatic Centre in Bruce.
“Gungahlin is significantly underserved in terms of community and recreation facilities relative to the rest of Canberra,” Mr Elford said. “So when we lose one of our major recreation and sporting facilities, it’s quite impactful to us.”
How, he wondered, could a brand-new facility not be working just five years later? “How can it be possible to build swimming pools that don’t hold water?”
This week, Yvette Berry, Minister for Sport and Recreation, said she had been advised the pool repairs would include removal of all the tiles, levelling screeds, and coatings; a further investigation of all the structures and joints; and installing a new pool tiling system, including a waterproofing membrane and gut repairs.
“I share the community’s frustration with the time it’s taken,” she said.
Ms Berry has asked the Treasury and Economic Development Directorate to get the works underway to reopen the pool as soon as possible.
In last week’s Budget, the government included an item ‘Repairing Gungahlin Leisure Centre’, with expense columns for the 2020–21 and 2021–22 financial years. No figures are provided; the cost of the repairs will be subject to commercial negotiations, the Budget states.
Ms Berry did not reveal when repairs would begin, or when they would finish. Leanne Castley, Liberal MLA for Yerrabi, is concerned the pool might not reopen as late as June 2022, which she said would be entirely unacceptable.
“The amount of work to be done is massive,” Ms Castley said. “The Minister needs to come clean and tell Gungahlin residents and families how long they will be without a pool. … The entire process has been a debacle.”
Greens MLA Andrew Braddock also said he was frustrated the pool had been closed for too long.
“I want to know when it will open, and why a six-year-old, ‘state of the art’ facility requires such extensive repairs funded by the public purse. This needs to be fixed as a matter of priority.”
Ms Berry said she would continue to ask for advice and regular updates on progress, and promised to keep the community informed.
However, Mr Elford said the government had not been proactive in providing information.
“We’re trying to get the Minister to explain what sequence of events got us to where we are; what’s the clear plan going forward; and what the broad timeline is for getting a resolution … The exact details continue to be very opaque.”
Mr Elford had asked Ms Berry to attend the council’s public meeting in March. He said the Minister had “not responded to that invitation with a yes or no” but provided a copy of what her office had already provided to a local media outleton Monday.
Moreover, Mr Elford said, there was no information about the announcement on Ms Berry’s website, the Gungahlin Leisure Centre website, the Sport and Recreation Directorate website, or through social media channels.
“Unless you go directly to the Minister and explicitly ask for it, it’s not been proactively distributed into the community,” he said.