Remote pools face dry future

FUTURE UNKNOWN: Ngukurr residents have a wait on their hands to find out whether their community pool will remain open after June 30 after Roper Gulf Regional Council announced it could no longer afford to operate the facility without external financial assistance.

FUTURE UNKNOWN: Ngukurr residents have a wait on their hands to find out whether their community pool will remain open after June 30 after Roper Gulf Regional Council announced it could no longer afford to operate the facility without external financial assistance.

RESIDENTS in Borroloola and Ngukurr could be left high and dry after Roper Gulf Regional Council revealed it was considering closing the pools in the remote communities on June 30.

Chief executive officer Michael Berto confirmed this week that the council had resolved to cease operating the “very critical” community pools at the end of the 2015-16 financial year if funding could not be secured through government and private sources.

The Ngukurr pool sits on land owned by the Northern Land Council, while the Borroloola facility is built on Department of Education land, something Mr Berto said compounded the problem because neither was classed as a council asset.

As part of a 2008 management agreement between the council and the Department of Education, a subdivision of the land on which the Borroloola pool was built had been planned, however, Mr Berto said budgetary constraints had rendered that option unfeasible.

This is a real problem, not just for us, but for a lot of councils out there with remote pools. - Roper Gulf Regional Council CEO Michael Berto

He added that he believed the Northern Territory government needed to think “outside the box” about funding for pool operations in remote communities before more faced the axe.

“There’s no funding box that fits really well and we got that feedback from an NT government minister as well,” he said.

“We all need to sit down and talk about ... the funding issue and look at alternative ways that these pools can be sustainable.

“This is a real problem, not just for us, but for a lot of councils out there with remote pools.”​

The council’s plight received little sympathy from Department of Local Government and Community Services Minister Bess Price, who acknowledged that the government was “working with councils to explore potential funding sources” but ruled out a financial lifeline.

“Any closures are ultimately the decision of the councils,” she said.

Mr Berto said the council would likely have “little choice” but to close the pools.

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