Page 925 - Week 03 - Thursday, 19 March 2015

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Perhaps the Chief Minister hopes no-one will take it on and he can force Canberrans to use the yet to be developed lakeside beach. If only he had the money to develop the area and provide an international standard stadium with modern energy technology and associated support infrastructure, just like a modern swimming pool should be. If only he did not have to support the construction of a tram line, imagine what we could have there instead.

The same can be said for the Manuka pool. Manuka pool is listed on the ACT heritage register of significant 20th century buildings. It is described on the register as:

… a significant example of an Art Deco style building in Canberra. The swimming pool is historically and socially significant as an example of public baths in the early 1930s in Canberra, and in its time a great innovation, being the only one of its kind within 330 kms. The pool has retained its original form, details, Art Deco decoration, and the character of its period, and is a valuable example of its building type.

The significant siting of the building contributes greatly to its prominence, centred opposite Telopea Park and now surrounded by mature trees. The building, historically and socially significant, has been a focal point of social activities in Canberra for over 50 years.

Manuka pool has been carefully renovated and updated on that basis. It is probably in better shape than the Civic pool. It certainly looks more refreshed than the Civic pool does and its operating costs would need to be more affordable than Civic pool’s or inner south residents would be in trouble. But, again, it is old, and in years to come it will become increasingly in need of more and more maintenance. And it is very close to the Chief Minister’s favourite oval, which we know he now wants to develop. Just ask the Services Club. The pool’s heritage listing might save it from other uses.

The Dickson pool was opened in the 1960s, and when it was built it was virtually sited in a paddock. Today, Dickson Aquatic Centre offers a wide variety of excellent facilities and speciality programs for everyone, as well as three heated pools and swimming lessons. There is currently expansive free car parking and barbecue areas. The pools are set amongst beautifully shady trees, beach volleyball courts, a massage centre and cafe. Each year I get representations from people asking why it has to close for the winter and whether it could remain open. It closed last Thursday and will not reopen until October. So those families that want to keep their children’s swimming lessons and fitness going will have to travel into Civic or go to Gungahlin or the AIS at Bruce.

Just like the Civic and Manuka pools, its future is also under pressure. Like Manuka and Civic pools, the Dickson centre is becoming a target for redevelopment and infill. Canberra prides itself on its level of participation in recreational activities, and we should all be proud of that. But as Canberra grows, we will need to ensure that our older suburbs, like Civic, Manuka and Dickson, continue to be well served by well-maintained facilities, and that includes pools that are safe to use, pleasant to be at, reliable in availability, and affordable to maintain.

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