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School rallies to save pool

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

Dalefield School has swum against the national trend and managed to save its pool following the incredible fundraising efforts of the local community.

It goes against the grain of worrying statistics showing that schools around the country are struggling to maintain their swimming pools.

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) chief executive Jonty Mills said it was an impressive effort by the school and everyone who contributed to the cause.

“It’s great to see that Dalefield have raised money to keep their pool open.

“I think it’s an inherent right of every Kiwi kid to learn water safety skills, and it’s particularly important in the rural areas where they don’t often have an alternative in a close enough vicinity.”

WSNZ runs a ‘Save our School Pools’ campaign in which they fund pools at high risk of closing, but it was becoming a long waiting list, he said.

“Over the last five or six years there have been about 156 school pools close around the country, and that’s largely because a lot of them are old or need maintenance.

“They need investment — maintenance and costs to keep them open have increased.”

As well as the 156 closures, 136 others were “at severe risk of closing”, which was a real concern.

Dalefield School principal Eric Daubé is new to the school this year, but said an incredible amount of effort had been put in by the community to save their beloved pool.

“The pool was in a terrible state and in dire need of funds to repair and renovate it.

“It was a team effort with staff, parents and local contractors all working together to enable us to have this vital facility at our school.”

There was still plenty of work to be done, but having a beautiful pool with a working filtration system was “joyous”.

“Seeing the genuine excitement that the kids have and the huge benefits of having a pool on-site that’s in beautiful condition is amazing,” he said.

“We’ve still got to patch up the changing sheds and the concrete wall around it needs painting, but the community are coming on-board towards the end of the term to get everything done.”

Later in the term there would be an official opening of the pool as well as new classroom facilities, but last week’s “unofficial” opening had been a huge success.

“We had a parents’ barbecue and picnic evening, and it was just wonderful to see it being used like that,” Mr Daubé said.

“It was a lovely sense of community and they’re very proud of it.”

Mr Mills said one of the main priorities at WSNZ was reducing the country’s drowning toll, and was pleased the importance of water safety was a major factor in Dalefield School’s push to save its pool.

“We’ve got one of the highest drowning tolls in the developed world in this country, which is nothing to be proud of, and it starts at the grassroot level.

“It’s part of who we are as Kiwis, and part of our culture to participate in the water whether it be fishing, boating or swimming throughout our lives, but it’s a critical part of a young person’s life to learn the safety skills.”

He said New Zealand Council of Education research showed only a quarter of New Zealand schools delivered an adequate level of water safety education, which meant three quarters of Kiwi children were not getting an adequate level of aquatic education.

“We can only do so much with limited resources, but we think it’s critical for young people to develop those lifelong foundational water safety skills.”

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