Richmond Valley Council held a meeting about the future of the Woodburn Public Pool at Woodburn Hall.
Richmond Valley Council held a meeting about the future of the Woodburn Public Pool at Woodburn Hall. Susanna Freymark

Residents' emotional debate over pool closure

THE state of the Woodburn Pool has become a catch-22.

According to the council not enough people are using the pool, while residents said the water quality was so bad, they didn't swim there any more.

Richmond Valley Council general manager Vaughan Macdonald said $210,000 needed to be spent on a new water filtration system and given the overall $270,000 for maintenance, several options were presented at the public meeting at Woodburn Memorial Hall on Thursday evening.

More than 100 residents turned up for an emotional discussion about the future of their pool.

Eleven year old Zoe Cowan tried to have her say at the rowdy meeting but was overwhelmed.

"There's no shade at the pool, it's too hot," she said quietly afterwards.

Many others were dismayed and complained about the state of the facilities.

The council is responsible for maintaining four pools - Casino, Coraki, Evans Head and Woodburn.

A private contractor maintains all four pools on behalf of the council and with one year left in the contractor's nine-year contract Mr Macdonald said it was decision time.

The main pool users were schools, he said.

"Of the 188 days the pool was open, no one used the pool for 80 of those days," he said.

"Fifty-three days had less than 10 visitors.

"Swimming pools do not make money for council. We have three old pools and a modern one at Evans Head that was built eight years ago."

The four options presented at the meeting were:

  • Maintain Woodburn Pool for the next two years for a cost of $373,000
  • Use the money to complete Woodburn Riverside Park landscaping and to extend the boardwalk - $650,000 is required to finish this project with $2.1 million already spent on the development
  • Use the money to upgrade the Woodburn Oval, tennis club and skate park
  • The final option was open and the council asked: "What would you like?"

Residents had no trouble voicing their views.

"We need early morning openings for lap swimmers."

"The pool is often not open when it is supposed to be."

"Woodburn Pool needs a coat of paint, flags, toys and new toilet seats."

"How has the pool got so bad? Why hasn't it been maintained?"

"We live by the river and creeks but the river is a dangerous place to swim. Woodburn children need pool facilities."

"We have lost many things too Evans Head, the pool is part of Woodburn. We don't want to be a suburb of Evans Head. The pool is ours."

"The pool is concrete, dark and depressive - why would we want to go there?

"Going to the pool is like driving a rusty, old Fairmount. You can get wet but you don't want to go back."

"Woodburn is not going to stay a sleepy, little town."

"We need to stick up for Woodburn."

Mr Macdonald said change brings opportunity and the council had spent millions developing the riverside and building a new tourist information centre, toilets and a barbecue block.

"I'm confident that in a few years time the majority will look back and thank council for investing in the park which aims to stimulate and support the transition of Woodburn post-bypass," Mr Macdonald said.

Even with with a modern heated facility 10 minutes down the road at Evans Head, residents were adamant Woodburn still needed its own pool.

Mr Macdonald said the ideas put forward at the meeting were valid.

"They're good ideas but like all good ideas they come at a cost," he said.

Questions were raised about the closure of Woodburn's IGA and Caltex Service Station.

"The IGA closing is a lease/landlord issue and the servo has said they have no plans to close," Mr Macdonald said.

  • Submissions about the Woodburn Pool can be made on the council's website until June 19. A decision will be made about the pool on June 25.