Page 957 - Week 03 - Thursday, 19 March 2015

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We know that the current operator’s five-year contract was terminated two years early, with effect from 30 June this year. We understand that the government was alerted to the leakage 18 months ago. If they were really worried about the loss of water, why has it taken this long to address the problem? It begs the question, minister: why have you thrown out the contractor who actually went to the trouble of discovering the problem?

What recompense does the contractor have in any of this? If the pool’s costly water leakages can be fixed, the contractor will have no opportunity to recoup the losses that he has had to wear for the past three years. We know that the pool has been a loss-making enterprise. Water costs and leakages have both been a major reason for the losses.

On top of the excessive water leakages, water charges in the ACT are higher than across the border in Queanbeyan. The difference is $2.20 a kilolitre in New South Wales compared to $5.31 a kilolitre through ACTEW. This is something that the ACT needs to address if it wants commercial operators to be keen to take on and run these facilities.

The minister mentioned that the pool is to close for eight months in the first instance. He said that if remediation cannot be undertaken, the outdoor pools will not be reopened next summer in order to reduce the significant loss of water that is currently taking place. Again, there was no mention of the fact that for the better part of three years the previous contractor had worn those costs but this government cannot seem to absorb the costs that the contractor has been asked to absorb for three years. But what about the last 18 months, from when you first learnt of the extent of this problem, minister?

In reality we all know, minister, that what you are saying is code for permanent closure. An excessive repair bill will be the basis for this most probably. So where do the Canberra Diving Academy, water rugby and water polo go? No doubt there are other groups that the minister has not mentioned. What about people with a disability who need this facility for their own health and wellbeing? Where do they go in the short and perhaps the long term? The future of the Olympic pool, based on the minister’s statements, looks grim. We all suspect that the government, or more precisely the Chief Minister, would love for it not to be there so that it will not interfere with other plans.

But the story gets worse. The Olympic pool is not the only one closing. The leisure centre at Tuggeranong is also to close for two months. With that closure—this is something that the minister has not touched on—there will be a loss of access for 2,000 people who currently use it—2,000 swimmers and 1,600 swimming lesson students, and up to 70 staff who will have no work for two months. The minister did not mention that. He did not mention the fact that he chose to terminate two contracts two years early. Well, he did mention partially that he chose to terminate two contracts two years early after allowing the contractor to manage with these less than satisfactory issues for three years.

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