Loud and clear: Lockington Save our Pool leader Kris Munro (left) with Kate Floyd (Lockington), Kristen Wright (Tongala) and Carlie Ryan (Colbinabbin). Watching on is Campaspe shire Mayor Chrissy Weller and Deputy Mayor Colleen Gates.

Save our Pools leaders from Colbinabbin and Lockington have suggested that attendance figures presented to Campaspe Shire Council in Wednesday’s Aquatic Services Review agenda item are wrong.

The revelation came as the council moved away from the recommendation to decommission five of the pools at the end of the 2022 swim season, instead throwing the pools a lifeline through the town planning process until May 23.

Stanhope, Rushworth, Tongala, Colbinabbin and Lockington pools will not be closed at the end of the current swim season.

And further discussion will now include the futures of Kyabram and Rochester outdoor pools, which were recommended for closure in 2025.

Councillor Adrian Weston moved a new six-point motion which, in essence, delayed any decision on the pool closures until the individual township facility plans for each of the towns concerns was completed.

Cr Weston’s motion, which was seconded by Cr Rob Amos, read that council:

1. Will not consider a decision on the future of outdoor pools for the following communities, Stanhope, Tongala, Colbinabbin, Lockington, Rochester, Rushworth and Kyabram, until council completes the individual township facility plans for each of those towns.

2. Where place-based plans have not been developed they are prepared concurrently with the township facility plan.

3. Commits to and directs the chief executive officer to prepare a deliberative engagement plan to enable consultation with the community on the future of swimming pools and to be tabled at council’s April 2022 council meeting for endorsement.

4. Requests all township facility plans and place-based plans referred to in point 2 be completed and presented to council for endorsement by May 2023.

5. Refers adequate funding into the 2022/23 budget to enable the township facility plan and place-based plan process to continue to be initiated with all communities.

6. Will prioritise funds for any immediate maintenance works required to ensure the pools can operate as normal, until the township facility plans are completed in each township.

Colbinabbin’s Carlie Ryan and Kristen Munro from Lockington, among the first of the six speakers who presented their arguments to council, questioned the numbers council officers had presented in the report.

They suggested the figures — in some instances — were 10 times more than what was reported.

Both made passionate pleas to ignore the numbers in the report, suggesting that meetings they had been involved in with officers offered up vastly different attendance levels.

Attendance numbers being underestimated was not the only subject matter from the pair to raise eyebrows in the meeting, a suggestion made that during the 2021-22 season attendance had not been recorded.

Ms Ryan said Kyabram outdoor pool attendance figures suggested 2000 people had attended the pool for the year, where she had seen figures suggesting that figure to be close to 20,000.

“The figures of attendance you have been provided with are absolutely incorrect,” Ms Ryan said.

“Attendance stats have been taken every year apart from this year. Lifeguards have been told not to count the people at Colbinabbin.

“We all get things wrong from time to time, that seems to be the case here.

“It appears that the information that has been discussed at meetings between our group and the council officers differs from what is reported to council,” Mrs Munro said.

Mrs Ryan and Mrs Munro were among six speakers at the meeting and went even further with their criticism of council officers by suggesting they understood lifesavers had been told not to record attendance numbers this year.

Their presentations were followed by a presentation from Kyabram P-12 school captain Jack Norris, another Kyabram representative in Susan Weardon and a second Lockington representative.

There was also a phone presentation made by a representative of the Rochester swimming community.

Outside the building there was some anxiety from representatives of the Stanhope, Rushworth and Tongala communities, who did not have representatives of their communities heard by the councillors.

Mayor Chrissy Weller, Deputy Mayor Colleen Gates and Crs Paul Jarman, Daniel Mackrell, Rob Amos and Tony Marwood all circulated through the crowd for some time before the meeting.

Councillors spoke with the placard-carrying protestors who had gathered outside the council chambers in a peaceful opposition to the recommendation for closure of the pools.

Mrs Munro addressed the crowd, which probably numbered more than 100, before entering the meeting.

“We always knew that council would revisit the pools debate, but we feel a little blind-sided by the decision to close all the pools,” she said.

Mrs Munro said the recommendation was contrary to council’s place-based planning process.

Ms Ryan was the first speaker at the council, describing council’s report of the changing nature of communities as incorrect.

The council report suggested people were moving away from using the pools due to having their own facilities at home.

“In Colbinabbin there is one home with an in-ground pool and even their kids swim at the pool,” she said.

“Of our population, 28 per cent are aged under 18.

“I have three children and we are there most nights.

“The attendance figures councillors are being presented with do not add up.

“In fact, they are blatantly incorrect.”

Mrs Ryan said she wanted the message to be loud and clear, “pools are the township assets we want this money (projected savings from the next five years of pool operating costs) allocated to.

Mrs Munro said she had been fighting to keep the pool since the debate first began in 2015-16

“I did come with a long-winded speech, but you have heard it all before,” she said.

She quoted from council’s own literature, which promoted engagement and participation in Campaspe communities.

“This was adopted in October 2021, using the words ‘we will work with our communities to determine what they want’.

“Well, we want the pools,” she said.

Mrs Munro said she felt council was failing in its role as advocate to lead, partner, service, regulate and build the Campaspe community if the pools were lost.

She suggested that the shire’s population, again quoting figures from council reports, had enough problems and disadvantages without adding the loss of pools to the list.

“Communities worked hard to build these pools and were strong-armed into giving them back to the council,” she said.

“There has been no engagememt with Rochester, Kyabram and Rushworth. Those communities have been completely blind-sided.

“We want to have a safe place where our kids can swim.

“The shareholders of Campaspe will hold you to account. You really have lost a lot of trust in the community.”

Prepared to listen: Tongala Save our Pool campaigners Lyn Hope, Jenny Riedell and Jenny Reid with Cr Tony Marwood before the council meeting on Wednesday.