I ATTENDED the Shire of Toodyay’s community briefing last October regarding the proposed new recreational centre.
The shire CEO identified that Toodyay needs improved facilities and services to attract and retain new community members, and that a state-of-the-art recreation centre is fundamental to that goal.
It became obvious that the pool was, and has been for many years, the main priority for the community.
The project provides for a 25m six-lane main pool.
Several issues were raised by the audience, mainly about the size, heating and availability of the pool.
These significant concerns were politely indulged but it felt that a compromised pool was a fait accompli.
Understandably, cost was cited as a primary factor.
Nobody would argue that pools are expensive to build and operate.
However, successive councils have had 40 years to come to terms with this issue.
Another rationale offered up was that pools of the proposed size were “standard for the Wheatbelt”.
As far as I’m aware, Northam has an Olympic-sized pool and Goomalling and Wundowie have pools of 33m length.
Recreational and competitive swimming is buried deep in the Australian psyche.
‘Rim of hell’
If people are to be prised away from the coast, Toodyay needs to provide an antidote to its reputation as the ‘rim of hell’ in summer.
It is that reality that stops many people relocating here.
That said, a pool complex needs to be about more than just ‘beating the heat’.
A 50m eight-lane pool would accommodate people of all ages in their recreational, health and competitive needs.
We wouldn’t dream of providing a half-size football field or half-size tennis or volley ball courts.
As one councillor said to me: “Of course not, because you can’t play on a half-sized field or court.”
True, and you can’t take swimming seriously in a half-sized pool.
‘Hearts and lungs’
What about the needs of young people who have aspirations to become competitive swimmers, or older folk who are committed to giving their hearts and lungs a workout?
It is not acceptable to make such a significant investment in community infrastructure, the centre piece of which is supposed to be a multi-purpose swimming facility, which is second best.
The argument that providing a compromised swimming facility is standard practice for the Wheatbelt or that half a swimming pool is better than no pool, doesn’t swim.
We may not be able to provide facilities for every sport or recreational activity (the ice hockey mob won’t be happy), but those activities that are being accommodated should be provided for equally.
It is a matter of equity.