Pool of support wins day

Doveton Eumemmering Township Association chair Sean Balfour, front, with residents soon after Casey proposed Doveton Pool's demolition in March. 231126_07 Picture: STEWART CH|AMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

It’s hard to argue against 94 per cent.

That was the overwhelming size of community-survey opposition after Casey Council tabled the demolition of the historic 50-metre Doveton outdoor pool in March.

The “clear message” was heeded by Casey’s three administrators, who voted to pursue a business case to keep the pool with a year-round accessible park on 14 December.

Doveton Eumemmerring Township Association chair Sean Balfour watched the council vote from a near-empty public gallery.

“I was elated but there was no one to celebrate with. Still, it was pretty good.”

DETA organised heavily-supported petitions to save Doveton pool, with schools, sports clubs and traders joining the grass-roots campaign.

“We’re winning,” Mr Balfour said.

“We’ve got to hope the business model gets us across the line.”

Another vocal campaigner was Greg Pargeter, son of the late former Berwick Shire mayor Syd Pargeter who led the creation of the pool 52 years ago.

He described the council’s back-flip as a “Christmas miracle”.

“It’s a significant win. The people have spoken.”

Doveton, being among the most disadvantaged Melbourne suburbs, could not afford to lose its pool, Mr Pargeter said.

“To take away a source of community pride would have just ripped the heart out of the Doveton community.

“It’s a phenomenon around the country at the moment with local governments trying to divest themselves of recurrent expenses.

“But they have to look at the intangible outcomes that you can’t really put a dollar value on.

“Like community connectedness and engagement, and driving lower crime figures.”

Doveton was a popular training pool for Casey Sharks swimming club and a triathlete group, Mr Pargeter said.

And increasingly vital for recreational and sporting swimmers as Casey’s population reaches an expected 500,000 in the next 20 years.

Mr Pargeter called for the immediate scrapping of the pool’s ’30-degree rule’ – in which it only opens in summer on 30-plus degree Celsius days.

“It would create certainty for when the pool would open – this would provide job certainty and greater usage of the pool.

“The pool is actually heated. They just need to dial it up a bit.”

With state and federal elections in the next 12 months, it was time for Casey to secure funding for the project, he said.

“We’ve seen the federal support for Dandenong Oasis, and Casey has heavily invested in Casey ARC and Casey RACE – it’s now the turn for Doveton pool.”

Bruce MP Julian Hill had sharply criticised the council’s original plan to “kill” Doveton pool “with no community consultation”.

“It’s thanks to the community that Council is now looking seriously at retaining the 50 metre outdoor pool,” he said in response to the pool’s reprieve.

“If Council decides to save the pool I will certainly fight for a federal funding contribution.”

Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams said it was “positive to see that Council listened to community feedback”.

“I look forward to seeing the outcomes of Council’s next stage of planning.”