Pool meetings receive passionate response, with more set to follow

Messages of support: These are just an example of the messages received by organisers of a Tongala pool rally on Monday night, which attracted almost 100 people. There will be another rally tonight at Campaspe Shire Council headquarters.
Messages of support: These are just an example of the messages received by organisers of a Tongala pool rally on Monday night, which attracted almost 100 people. There will be another rally on Wednesday night at Campaspe Shire Council headquarters.

Protestors are expected to number in their hundreds outside the Campaspe Shire Council offices before Wednesday night’s meeting, which will decide the future of the shire’s seven outdoor pools.

Public meetings have been held in most of the communities affected by the closures, planning to commence at the end of this summer and eventually see the closure of all seven pools by the end of the 2025 summer.

Kirsten Wright, who led a Tongala rally at the shire pool on Monday evening, said she was expecting to have people representing not only Tongala, but also Kyabram and Rochester — the pools slated for closure at the end of the 2024-25 season — Lockington, Colbinabbin, Stanhope and Rushworth.

“Most of them have confirmed they will attend a gathering outside the Campaspe Shire chambers on Wednesday before the start of the meeting.

“The councillors will know we are there,” she said.

Ms Wright spent almost 30 years as a competitor, coach and VicSwim teacher, at the Tongala Swimming Pool.

Her family was involved with the swimming club for the duration of her primary and secondary school years.

She was one of four main speakers at the Tongala rally, along with policeman Senior Constable Tim Fraser, independent candidate for Nicholls Rob Priestly and Campaspe Shire Deakin ward councillor Daniel Mackrell.

Cr Mackrell, who himself only found out about the closures last week, was subjected to a series of questions about tonight’s decision.

Ms Wright said she was hopeful that the council representatives would stand up for their constituents.

“I think we may end up with Kyabram and Rochester. From what I understand there were three options — close all the pools, close all except Echuca and close all except Echuca, Kyabram and Rochester.

“It is frustrating, because as I understand council’s role is to plan and deliver services.

“What do we get in Tongala, apart from our rubbish being picked up,” she said.

“If they do close everything, as suggested, and we only have Echuca remaining it will be a big job to co-ordinate all the swimming clubs, all the schools and the public at the Echuca pool,” she said.

Ms Wright said she had requested the Deakin ward councillors deliver a motion to change the policy.

“If the council policy, in regard to how it operates the pools, doesn’t get changed we are going to have to fight for the pool every three years.

“We have asked councillor John Zobec to do this as well.

“We need to have the aquatic facility policy updated to include pool upgrades, improvements and repairs.

“At the moment it doesn’t allow for that,” she said.

The efforts of the Campaspe Shire communities to save the pools have gained attention outside of the region, 3AW’s Neil Mitchell taking up the cause on Tuesday morning.

Ms Wright said the passion for the pool in Tongala was high, but Lockington was “next-level”.

“All of their community uses the pool.

“In Tongala only one of the two schools use the pool, with St Patrick’s school going to Aquamoves in Shepparton.

“Tongala Primary School conducts all its swimming lessons at the pool,” she said.

Ms Wright has taken possession of about 100 individual messages from residents that oppose the Tongala pool closure and has another 100 to hand out.

“We had 40 apologies for the meeting on Monday night,” she said.

Ms Wright said the suggestion to replace the pool with a water park, using the funds provided by the shire through operational savings, was not an option.

“You can’t learn to swim at a water park.

“We are worried about the big picture, people’s mental health, obesity and water safety.

“Then other considerations like school fees rising because Tongala schools have to use the heated pool facility in Echuca.

“This closure has a lot of ramifications,” she said.