'Ambitious' 12 month timeframe to plan Armidale's new hydrotherapy pool

MONDAY MEETING: The working party meet for the first time on Monday to begin planning the city's new hydrotherapy pool.
MONDAY MEETING: The working party meet for the first time on Monday to begin planning the city's new hydrotherapy pool.

Jenny Bailey aims to have Armidale’s new hydrotherapy pool ready for construction in 12 months.

Mrs Bailey, a Tamworth Hydrotherapy Pool user, met with the newly established working party in Armidale on Monday to begin planning.

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“Jenny has set a very ambitious target to do all of this work in the next 12 months,” Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall told Fairfax Media in his office shortly after the meeting.

“When we come back next year we should have a design, an operating model, where it’s going to go, who is going to look after it and a cost to move forward.”

Mr Marshall organised the working party’s inaugural meeting with Armidale Regional Council’s Lindsay Woodland, a representative from Hunter New England Health and two members of the Lions Club in attendance. 

Mrs Bailey said the group were currently focused on “getting the figures of where the need is”.

HNEH general manager for Northern Tablelands, Wendy Mulligan, and the Executive Director for Rural and Regional Health Services, Susan Heyman, were both unable to attend the meeting.

However, Mrs Bailey said Ms Heyman’s representative would gather operational figures of the existing pool and report back to the team in two weeks.

“We’ve sent the representative away to get those figures for us and reconvene in a couple of weeks,” Mrs Bailey said.

Mrs Bailey is also a regular user of the Tamworth hydrotherapy pool.

“The Tamworth pool is quite a lot bigger than the Armidale pool and therefore its capacity is greater,” she said.

“I’ve witnessed over that time how the pool is run and it’s quite a different model to Armidale.

“I’ve witnessed the various groups that come through the pool … there is a lot of external use and people from outside of Tamworth.

I’ve witnessed the various groups that come through the pool … there is a lot of external use and people from outside of Tamworth.

Jenny Bailey

“If we were able to do the same thing here and build a much more public model, we will be able to also call from people from the Northern part of the electorate.”

Mrs Bailey said taking control away from Hunter New England Health and bringing it back into the community, was a positive move.

“[HNEH] has so many rules, regulations and constraints put on them and it is very difficult, even with the greatest will among the staff, they are not able to bend those rules,” she said.

“If we have a public facility, I’m not saying we’ll bend the rules in the wrong way but, we will be able to have a model that suits a lot more people in the community than the current model allows.”

Mrs Bailey said there was no confirmed location for the new pool.

“We haven’t even come down to that sort of fine detail,” she said.

“What we want to do first is establish exactly what we want, the size of the pool, all the facilities we need to stand along side it.

“If that criteria fits with the town pool [location] I think it would be an ideal outcome but it wasn’t discussed at all today.”

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said Monday’s meeting was about working from a “blank canvas” and looking at the demand for such a facility in the wider community.

“The capital cost to physically construct it isn’t going to be the most challenging part of this project,” he said.

“It is going to be working out what people agree with … and who is going to own it, manage it and wear the ongoing operational and maintenance costs.”

But nailing down those details won’t come until the very end, Mr Marshall said.

He said there were numerous funding opportunities at state and possibly federal levels to assist with getting the pool up and running.

“I would be surprised if, when we get to the end of this project, Council wasn’t willing to help in some regard given the importance of this facility for the community,” he said.

The University of New England and Hunter New England Health have both indicated they would not be interested in managing the new pool.

That leaves Council and The Armidale School.

“Those are probably the options at this stage but will no doubt be be part of the group’s discussions going forward,” Mr Marshall said.