Swimming in the sub-standards

So our primary school is in hock to it’s swimming pool, which needs somewhere between $40k and $80k spent on it. Cracking, apparently. And if we don’t fix it, we’re forced to decommission it, which – and this hurts – will cost a great deal more.

I haven’t yet learned how this works with the Ministry of Education. All I know is that they’ve given us until the end of term 1 to get it together: about 5 weeks from now. After that, by some process which I dread to imagine, we’re forced to cough up for decommissioning it. Maybe it’s simply that if we don’t fix it, it all ends up sliding down the hill. Hard to say how rotten that would be.

So, we might regard this burden as the reality of a low-tax economic regime. What the government loses in tax, it makes up for in crowd-funded swimming pools. Or, we might look at it from a curriculum point of view: there’s no national standard in swimming, so perhaps the schools have no place teaching it. Can anyone really take that line seriously?

BW School Pool

Maori and Pakeha Boys at School Swimming Pool, 1970. Photo: G Riethmaier, courtesy Archive NZ, under creative commons licence

Kaurilands School is not alone in this predicament. Campbell Live had a piece last week about a school in Glen Innes with a similar problem, and apparently there’s well over a hundred such around the country.

So if this is a rock star economy, why on Earth can we not afford the same – or more – school pools that we could in the 1960s?

I was lucky: I was bought some lessons in the Mt Eden pool. I can still remember the moment I stuck my head down, kicked like mad, made like a windmill, and took my first breath without standing up. But that bit – where it all came together in a spluttering mess – that happened in the school pool.

I doubt if it matters whether primary teachers are any good at swimming instruction. It’s the familiarisation that counts. Most of it’s just practice.

The majority of kids in New Zealand can’t afford swimming lessons. Some can’t afford a trip to the pool.

Meanwhile, according to Water Safety NZ 80% of 14 year olds can’t swim to survive, and about a hundred of us die of drowning each year. So I find it hard to accept that schools have no place giving kids access to safe, supervised swimming practice.


Another context for this is that West Auckland has very few swimming pools. In fact, there is one (more or less) at Henderson, consisting of a lane pool which frightens the kids, and a wave pool, which frightens me and the kids.

If you’re at the age where you’re still putting your swimming together, the wave pool is the last place you want to be. It’s chlorinated human soup. A siren goes off every 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of wave action. Often commercial radio blares above the rest of the racket.

When the family wants to take a swim, we drive into the CBD and hang out in the rarified environs of the iconic, historic Tepid Baths. Thats a 17km drive from our house.

So, our primary school is in hock to its pool. It’s a problem we’ve inherited, and one that surely the politicians who funded it, the people who built it, and the teachers who founded it, would never have dreamed of or wished for. Still (as we like to say in 2017), here we are.

Please, give what you can on our give-a-little page. I apologise for the dramatic tone, but the government’s abandoned the whole idea of school pools, and – as a result – someone’s likely to drown in the future.

Thank you to everyone who’s given so far: some of you have been very generous. But this is really a case where every dollar counts.

And if you could like us, share us, and tell people about us, well, that’d be awesome, too.




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