Residents in the dark over Austi pool work

Fran Connell and Zoltan  Budai make the most of the great weather and access to the Austinmer beach rock pools before they close for repair work. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Fran Connell and Zoltan Budai make the most of the great weather and access to the Austinmer beach rock pools before they close for repair work. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Wollongong City Council is planning to spend more than $500,000 on repairing the Austinmer ocean pools, but residents are in the dark about how long the pool will be closed for the work to take place.

Starting this month, the pool will be closed while contractors repair the walls and sides of the pool.

The contractor, Specialised Marine Services, has been engaged for the renovations, which will repair a leak in the western sea wall, strengthen all walls, improve drainage from the shorter pool and upgrade the walkway, while maintaining the present height profiles of all walls.

The cost to ratepayers has been listed as $499,405.05 plus GST.

But council has refused to say how long the work will take – or even give any kind of estimate.

The Mercury asked several times on Thursday and Friday but council would not give any advice on how long the pool would be closed.

‘‘The work on Austinmer rock pool is highly dependent on a number of variable factors, including the weather, tides, and storms,’’ a council statement said. ‘‘Council will endeavour to complete the works as soon as possible.’’

While winter is on the way, there is still a steady stream of swimmers who use the pool year-round, particularly in the early morning.

The Mercury popped down to the pool this week to see how swimmers planned to deal without a venue that many residents name as their favourite thing about the suburb.

Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

With the water temperature still above 20 degrees, regular swimmer Fran Connell said she would find other ways to exercise, but wished the work was starting later.

‘‘It’s a shame it’s closing in May and not June, because the water is warm in May,’’ she said.

Ms Connell said she wouldn’t relocate to another pool for the winter, as being able to walk down to the Austi pool was a major part of its appeal.

‘‘It’s a place where you meet people and say hello,’’ she said.

‘‘There isn’t another one like it.’’

The Austinmer Otters winter swimming club will be without a venue for their weekly Sunday morning swims.

They are most likely to move to the ocean-fed Thirroul pool until it closes for the winter, before perhaps heading to Coledale’s rock shelf ocean pool for the rest of the winter.

Of course the Otters are just some of the people who use the pool regularly throughout the year.

Rob Nugent lives at Wombarra but swims regularly at Austinmer – when the temperature’s right.

He preferred Austinmer’s pool for its east-west direction, which meant the water was regularly flushed out and therefore crisp and clean, plus its shelter and change rooms.

‘‘My days of pain have gone as far as swimming in the water,’’ he said.

‘‘I pick these days [when it’s sunny], if there’s a day like this in July.

‘‘As long as the water’s a bearable temperature – 16 I go to. I don’t go to the 12s and 13s.’’

Mr Nugent said the work council was doing ‘‘could only be good’’.

‘‘We’re very fortunate...to have these pools,’’ he said.

When the Mercury visited the pool on Thursday, Thirroul resident and regular pool user Zoltan Budai was enjoying his second swim of the day.

‘‘I usually come at low tide, when it’s like swimming in a big fish bowl,’’ he said.

‘‘I just hope the conditions favour them so they can get it done quickly.’’

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