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Swim classes sunk

Friday, 16th November, 2012

Learn to swim classes run by the NSW Sport and Recreation Department have been cancelled following a decision from City Council to introduce lane hire fees. Learn to swim classes run by the NSW Sport and Recreation Department have been cancelled following a decision from City Council to introduce lane hire fees.

By Ben Sheffield

Learn to swim sessions run at the Broken Hill Aquatic Centre by the NSW Sport and Recreation Department have been cancelled, following a decision by City Council not to waive recently introduced lane hire fees for the program.

Parents of about 30 children who were enrolled in the January program have been called or emailed by the Department in recent days, informing them that the program has been cancelled.

One of the parents contacted was Naomi Harper, who was told that increases to Council pool charges were the cause of the cancellation.

"Apparently the council has decided to charge an exorbitant amount of money for a lane per day, so that the fees being charged for each child wouldn't cover the actual lane hire."

She believes that the move is at odds with the recent upgrade of the Aquatic Centre facilities.

"The (council) is forgetting the large expansion and promotional campaign they had last year to have the local community patronise the pool.

"How is it that we need to teach our children to swim, have qualified national swim instructors willing to travel all over the state to ensure our kids are taught basic swim safety, only to have the council's greed take another opportunity for our town to benefit as a family orientated regional area."

A spokeswoman for the NSW Office of Communities, Sport and Recreation Department confirmed that changes to Council charges were the cause of the cancellations.

"In June this year Sport and Recreation was notified by Broken Hill Council that it was introducing lane hire fees at the Aquatic Centre.

"These fees had not been budgeted and a bid to have the fees waived was unsuccessful.

"Approximately 30 existing enrolments have been notified about the cessation of Sport and Recreation's program and they will receive a refund. Clients have been encouraged to contact other local providers," she said.

A spokeswoman from the Broken Hill City Council said that the decision not to waive the lane hire fees was made because the program receives funding from the NSW Government.

"Council's decision to not support the request to waive the fees for the Aquatic Centre was made under the Community Assistance Policy, which does not provide financial or in-kind support to organisations that, amongst other requirements, receives funding from the Federal or State Government," she said.

In discontinuing the programs, the Department of Sport and Recreation spokeswoman said that there
was an adequate number of alternative learn to swim programs in the area.

"There are a number of other providers of learn to swim programs in Broken Hill, while Sport and Recreation focuses its Swim and Survive program on
communities where there is an unmet need.

"Sport and Recreation did a review to ensure there were alternate learn to swim providers in Broken Hill and confirmed there are a number of private providers operating out of the Broken Hill Regional Aquatic Centre, providing lessons to all ages and abilities.

"There are also three swimming clubs which provide learn to swim lessons, and many local primary schools have also implemented an intensive program of lessons."

However, Naomi Harper, was not so sure that the alternative programs would meet the needs of Broken Hill.

"Most of the swim clubs are full from year to year and they provide a great opportunity for kids who can already swim and do our town proud in many competitions as well.

"However, parents want smaller groups per instructor, not twenty to one, with many clubs unable to provide smaller basic swim classes.

"Having this NSW learn to swim program here during summer is vital for young children and families to continue patronising the pool, as well as enjoy the rivers and backyard pools safely.

The BDT understands that as part of the impending YMCA takeover of the Aquatic Centre's management, they will offer their own learn to swim program.

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