The Sarina Swim Centre.
The Sarina Swim Centre. Contributed

Principal silent as debate rages over school pool access

THE acting principal of Sarina State High School is remaining silent on whether the public will be allowed to access the school's swimming pool, despite ongoing debate about the issue this week.

Asked if he would answer questions about the situation, acting principal of the school, Daniel Johnson, said he was "not in a position to be able to help at this point in time", referring the matter to the Department of Education and Training.

However a spokesperson for the department said it was a matter for the principal.

"Decisions regarding community use of school facilities sit with the principal of the relevant state school.

"While there is no current lease arrangement in place for any community group or the Mackay Regional Council to use Sarina State High School's swimming pool, the school is in the process of negotiating an agreement with Mackay Regional Council with a view to allowing members of the public to use the pool.

"While the primary function of schools is to provide a place of learning for students, it is recognised there are times when the facilities are not in use and could be utilised by community groups.

"The Department of Education and Training is committed to strengthening relationships between schools and local communities, and has a long standing practice of making its facilities available to the community for use outside of school hours."

Mackay councillor Martin Bella has called for the pool to be separated from the school and sold to the council, so the situation would be permanently resolved. He said: "The pool was originally at least 50% funded by the community and since the beginning it's been funded by council to the tune of $100,000 a year. They are wanting to reduce the useage time by 50%.

"If they want that they can come up with $50,000 to maintain it. They only want us to use it half the time, but they want us to pay for all of it. That's unacceptable.

Cr Bella said that there was no reason the public shouldn't use the pool at the same time as students are having their swimming lessons. "I believe we should have full access to the pool. The teachers should supervise their children, we've got people in place at the pool to supervise the public."

Local Margaret Ross also took to Facebook to voice her opinion. "Who remembers when the Sarina Pool was first opened in our community?

"Who remembers where the funds came from to build that pool and to give the community their very own pool?

"Who remembers the fundraising events and the organisations who put money into building the pool? Lets not let the politicians forget where this pool actually came from.

"Taking away yet another community resource from us is not fair and we as a community will not let this happen."

Councillor calls for community to get behind planned petition

COUNCILLOR for Mackay Regional Council Karen May has called for the community to back a planned petition aimed at guaranteeing community access to the Sarina swimming pool.

Cr May wrote: "The current situation is that Education Queensland will not allow community use during school hours.

"I spoke with council's CEO late this afternoon (Tuesday) and EQ are sticking to their stand of no community access during school hours.

"We need to rally as a community to right this wrong. During my time in local government this is the third time that I can remember the department has tried this on. We have won in the past and we will win again.

"I have been working with Margaret Ross to get a petition started and gather the local history to back up our stand.

"We need to be petitioning Education Queensland as they are the ones denying community access. They have also stated that if the agreement isn't signed, the pool will not be opening at the end of the month."

Councillor Martin Bella said that any lease solution would lead back to the same situation coming up again in the future. "We need to take back what's ours and there is a moral obligation from Education Queensland to sell the block to us at a reasonable price."

Member for Mirani, Jim Pearce, whose electorate covers Sarina, was aware of the issue and due to have meeting with the education minister at 4pm Wednesday.

He said: "I like to get all the facts before taking a position on issues."

He did not return our calls or provide any further comment on what happened at the meeting at the time of going to press.

Here's what you said on Facebook

Wendy Vella: Maybe its time the council gave Sarina community its own pool

Bee Kathleen Brown: Ratepayers throughout the Sarina Shire paid for this swimming pool. There was a levy added to the annual rates. At the time, people couldn't understand why when they paid for something that there was restricted use.

Gail Rick Lowth: Again we have this ongoing problem. It should have been built near the community hall and not so close to high school. Money was raised by the community and ratepayers also paid. It was also put on council grounds where the community tennis courts were. Why does Ed Qld. Think they have control of this pool when it is suppose to be run by council for the community?

Jenine Bailey: The pool needs to be available for all to use. Not all people can exercise effectively due to injury and illness and the pool provides much needed option for health and fitness. It has been open the last few years without any issue, why is it now a problem?

Karen Downes: In 1976&77 I was student rep for this pool to be built using state and local fundraising. The pool was built there for the community and the school. What's going on?

Jess Finlay: Only certain groups in high school use the pool, they only do 1 hr lessons if that so y do they need full access 5 days a week? Its a community pool. We pay to use it just like the kids in school have to pay to use it. Us rate payers paid for and are still paying for this pool. There shouldnt be an argument.

Karen Downes: Yes it was built for both school and community. Easy as to sort a timetable. Here we go with local and state government that prob don't even have a record.

Camillaandjohn Livingston: Here we go again - I grew up here and the argument when this pool was built the community did not want it to form part of school grounds - the public fought and raised funds for this for the community not the school community and every few years the school community tried to pull the same stunt - this is a community pool and will remain so but only if the community takes a stand

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