Dive pool’s now a money pit

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Town of Port Hedland Commissioner Fred Riebeling and Project Manager Ryan Pickup at the Gratwick Aquatic Centre
Camera IconTown of Port Hedland Commissioner Fred Riebeling and Project Manager Ryan Pickup at the Gratwick Aquatic Centre

A community group has slammed the Town of Port Hedland’s handling of the Gratwick Aquatic Centre’s dive pool upgrade after millions was spent on the facility which will now be decommissioned.

The Town of Port Hedland closed the site on November 28 last year, just five days after reopening from a 19-month maintenance shutdown, due to a false positive reading to the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, later found to be Naegleria australiensis.

The dive pool portion of the facility will now be decommissioned after the town deemed remediation works — which would cost about $1.5 million — too expensive and outweigh the social benefit the community would receive.

In place of the dive pool, an undercover family area, featuring fixed tables, seating and a barbecue area will be installed, at an estimated cost of $329,000, including the cost of the decommission.

Port Hedland Ratepayers Association president Arnold Carter said the saga was a disgrace, calling for the Town to more carefully plan and test future works to ensure mistakes are not repeated.

“The Town went over budget and overtime in the initial works, then they rushed to open the facility and had all the problems,” he said. “It’s just a joke — the reasons given for the problems all could’ve been avoided with better planning and execution of the works, instead, it’s ended up costing the rate payers and the community.”

Town officers investigating the potential reasons for the amoeba’s presence found the decision to paint instead of tiling the pool increased the likelihood of water-borne bacteria and amoeba developing. The existing pipework and dive pool inlets were also found to be too narrow, inhibiting the full circulation of water and significantly increasing the probability of bacterial and amoebae growth.

Town of Port Hedland commissioner Fred Riebeling said previous administrations’ lack of priority placed on maintaining and improving the aquatic centre led to the problems.

“Historically, investing in the Gratwick Aquatic Centre wasn’t prioritised and there was a failure to plan, which resulted in a number of operational failures. This was exacerbated by the facility approaching its end of life,” he said. “Due to both Gratwick Aquatic Centre and South Hedland Aquatic Centre being at the end of their useful lifespan, the Town is embarking on an aquatics master plan, which will deliver a high calibre of aquatic facilities for Hedland’s future.

“Before Gratwick Aquatic Centre is reopened, we will prioritise water testing in the interests of public health. The facility has received upgrades including more pavement, more turf, replacing the toddler pool tiles and more.”

The Town allocated an additional $100,000 to investigate the creation of a new, more contemporary set of aquatic facilities for future construction as part of the aquatics master plan.

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