How the Sydney suburbs fare for public pools

The North and Southwest growth areas, covered by communities like Blacktown and Camden, have rapidly growing populations as new suburbs are built, and residents say amenities – from schools to hospitals to swimming pools – are not keeping up .

The suburbs in these areas also have the highest proportion of children under the age of 10. These include Bardia in the Campbelltown area, where newborns to 9-year-olds make up almost 25 percent, Oran Park in the North West (22.8 percent) and Marsden Park (22.7 percent).

Blacktown Leisure Center’s Samantha Felsein said the swimmers’ team was unable to cope with the demand. When the final semester began, there were no vacancies for elementary school-age children and only a few for adults and preschoolers.

“We deal with hundreds of clients who come in every week asking to book classes and are consistently disappointed when we don’t have the vacancy to cater for them,” she said.

Sebastian Pfautsch, an associate professor at Western Sydney University who studies intense heat in the city’s west, said the discrepancy between pool facilities in the east and west is “quite shocking”.

“The [better-served areas] They don’t just have the pools, they have miles of shoreline,” he said.

“Overseas there are policies that talk about longer hours for pools and make them free on heatwave days, but when we don’t have the pools it’s just silly.”

There are 445 public swimming pools in NSW, as well as 213 public-access swimming pools, such as B. private swimming pools. That’s 658 pools statewide, each averaging 12,400 users.

Blacktown has reserved land for a water center in Marsden Park, but Bleasdale said the council could not afford to build it. Ahead of the election, the council is urging both major parties to commit to changes to developer royalty rules that would make this possible.

Blacktown Council wants to build more pools but says it can't afford it because of developer royalty caps.

Blacktown Council wants to build more pools but says it can’t afford it because of developer royalty caps.Credit:Walter Peeters

In 2010, developer levies were capped on labor and the cap remains in place. The levies may only be spent on certain types of infrastructure. For example, the council can use the money to buy land for a pool, but not the pool itself.

Blacktown is urging the next administration to restore the pre-2010 funding mechanism and says it has a $525 million backlog of projects it can’t build. NSW Local Government has also called for councils to be able to spend the levies on a wider range of community needs.

“You’re going to have more pressure on existing infrastructure if governments don’t actually allow municipalities to build these facilities,” Bleasdale said.

Ronald Duran, who was once a merchant seaman in the Philippines, is an avid swimmer himself, but he wants the rest of his family to be good swimmers too. “I want to get my daughter to learn to swim, but there is no place anywhere,” he said. “My wife can’t swim either, but we can’t get a place for her either.”

The chief executive of the Royal Lifesaving Society NSW, Michael Ilinsky, said governments must start building pools in fast-growing areas now because they are expensive and have taken years to develop. He said they provide important mental, physical, and social benefits, while also playing a key role in preventing drowning.

He said 35 per cent of foreign-born people identified as non- or poor swimmers – making access to swimming pools in various communities across Sydney’s south-west and west even more important – and urged both major parties to join forces before the election to build new ones Pools to undertake pools in growth areas.


A Labor spokesman said the party understood the pressures on councils and, if elected, would explore options with councils to allow local governments to roll out infrastructure faster.

“We will task the Greater Cities Commission with rebalancing housing targets and setting new targets for subway lines to support the delivery of housing around existing infrastructure,” the spokesman said.

A spokesman for Planning and Homeland Secretary Anthony Roberts said reforms to infrastructure contribution legislation have been put on hold to allow the department to work on changes to improve the system. A modified package will be introduced this year, the spokesman said.

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Justin Scacco

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