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Children should swim for free

Former Tumut Mayor Geoff Pritchard at Tumut Community Swimming Pool, entry to which he wants to see free of charge for children.

Former Tumut Mayor Geoff Pritchard wants children to be able to get into Tumut Swimming Pool for free in a bid to prevent drownings.

“On the coast, kids can swim for free, so why should country kids be disadvantaged?” he said.

Mr Pritchard believes the pool entry cost of $3 per child is placing too much of a burden on families, and that the Tumut River is too dangerous for children to swim in.

“The Tumut River is at near flood levels, and it is flowing fast with cold water from the bottom of the dam,” he said.

“The cost of three dollars adds up to a significant amount of money for some families who have three or more kids and use the pool every day, especially if they buy ice creams and the like.

“We should be encouraging kids to use the swimming pool, not hindering them. It is all very well to give kids swimming lessons at school, but they have to have somewhere they can keep their skills up. There aren’t enough people using the pool for the effect of not having the fee income available to council to have much effect.”

He is also concerned about division caused by some children being able to use the pool while others can’t.

“Children seeing their friends using the pool while they can’t because their mother didn’t have enough money is going to create an alienation, which sows the seeds of community disharmony,” he said.

Mr Pritchard said he has “always been unhappy” about the cost for children to get into the pool, including when he was Mayor early this century, but did not push for the cost to be abolished then.

“It is more of an issue now with the increase in drownings,” he said.

Eighteen people have drowned in New South Wales since Christmas Day.

“The Goobarragandra River at Junction Park is an alternative where people can avoid paying, and it is lovely, but it is close to the fast-flowing Tumut River,” Mr Pritchard said.

“Years ago one of my neighbours drowned there.”

He said that the Tumut Skate Park was a great example of what can happen when children have free attractions.

“We had problems with kids skateboarding in the wrong places, but when the skate park opened, we didn’t,” he said.

Mr Pritchard is determined to bring pool fees to prominence in the September election for Snowy Valleys Council.

“It is a long way off, but I am going to make it an issue,” he said.

Snowy Valleys Council administrator Paul Sullivan said that Mr Pritchard’s view “had merit.”

”The pool is an emotive issue, especially in regards to drownings, and it is an issue that the whole community will have to decide,” he said.

“Council has decided against it before, but we have to be mindful of the future. It is something that can be addressed at the council election.”