by Melissa Alexander
The wind has been bitterly cold of late and it’s hard to imagine that in only a few more months we will be swimming in our beloved outdoor pool. After such a long fight to get Coburg Olympic Pool re-opened, summer seemed even sweeter as we relished every minute of swimming, splashing, picnicking and barbequing at Coburg’s favourite watering hole. Now that our pool is under threat again, I’m glad we stayed until the very last minute during the heat wave we call January. Leaving the cool depths of the pool, the shade of the paper barks and willows and the riverside ambience to go back to our hotbox houses seemed unthinkable.
Now our beloved pool is facing a major re-development. Within one summer we have gone from trying to keep the pool open to trying to preserve it from the clutches of unnecessary development. The concept plan of the Coburg Initiative (original link to www.thecoburginitiative.com.au/ is now broken) shows the demolition of the Coburg Leisure Centre to make way for a residential housing development and has the Coburg Olympic Pool and surrounds earmarked as the preferred location for a super-duper whiz bang aquatic facility. The line that we keep hearing from the council and the developers is that “Coburg doesn’t need two pools”. Well, here is a newsflash, which from all the community consultation should already be ringing alarm bells for the initiative people. Neither the Kodak site nor central Coburg has people living in them yet. Pentridge Village is still being built and already our local community services are stretched to full capacity, struggling to provide basic community needs. I cannot get my children into swimming lessons, the kinder has a waiting list that could fill three kindergartens, there is no local high school and the public transport system is failing miserably. At the risk of stating the obvious, cutting down our pool from one to two does not equal more services for more people, it equals less. Just imagine what this will mean when there are 20,000 more homes in the municipality.
The two pools have completely different functions and purposes and to change either one would be a huge loss to the entire municipality. The Coburg Leisure Centre is easily accessible by public transport and conveniently located for many people, particularly the elderly. After visiting the centre it’s logical that while you’re in Coburg you will do the shopping, go to the library, pop in to the post office and meet friends in the mall for coffee. The Coburg Olympic Pool on the other hand is on the bike path and readily accessible for families and young people who wish to spend the whole day lazing by the pool, jumping off the diving board, swimming laps or playing in the wading pool with the little ones. The outdoor pool took over from the local park and neighbourhood house and functioned as the village square over the summer months. I am not trying to show that there are disparate groups of people using the pools; this is not always the case, what I’m trying to show is that both pools serve completely different purposes and both are used by our community for many different reasons.
The embodied energy of both the pools is not factored into the equation when arguments about sustainability and energy use come into play. Yes, we agree that pools are huge energy guzzlers and it would be very easy for the council to close one down and subsequently talk about how green they are. Surely it is better to have a couple of communal facilities used by everyone than for individuals in the neighbourhood to have their own? Surely it is smarter, greener, more sustainable to keep what we have and improve on it rather than bulldoze existing facilities to build new ones? Surely we would save more energy walking to the pool than driving? To me that means having more quality facilities not less.
I have been to a couple of the consultation groups and I felt the biggest concern of the community was keeping and extending on our green and public space. After a look at the draft plan it seems that housing is encroaching on our communal space, it is certainly encroaching on our pool space. We need more houses and more green space, both are required for healthy, happy communities. We need to say to the developers definitively what we require and we need to say it loud, for once it’s gone we will never be able to reclaim it. Let’s save Coburg Olympic Pool until we can swim in the lake again, after all that’s what the outdoor pool was built for; we had polluted our water system too much to use it for anything but looking at.