Keen pool users in the Maniototo are unhappy with the reduced hours announced for the Ranfurly Pool last week, saying staff shortages are not a new issue and perhaps it is time to look at upgrades that allow a longer season.

The Central Otago District Council announced on social media late Waitangi Day afternoon that the pool would operate on reduced days and hours from February 9 because of a lack of qualified lifeguards to ensure safety.

It would be closed on Thursdays and Sundays and from 6pm weekdays during some weeks.

Following mostly negative feedback to that social media post, the council clarified yesterday it had prioritised swimming lessons, so children could continue their water safety education, in its decision to reduce the hours of operation.

Central Otago District Council Parks and Recreation manager Gordon Bailey said the council was aware the move would disappoint many people but, as the pool was about to lose two of its four staff, it had no option but to reduce the days and hours.

“Ranfurly Pool needs a minimum of four staff members to operate the pool seven days a week lifeguards, and two assistants for reception and cleaning.

“Unfortunately, we are now losing two staff to go to university. This leaves one qualified, and one assistant to operate the pool.”

Community member and season pass holder Amie Pont said pool users were frustrated.

“It is one of the core facilities in our community,” she said.

Finding lifeguards had been a historical problem and it seemed a more pragmatic approach was needed, she said.

“Is there a way that we could help as a community?

“Can we expand the centre and incorporate a wellness centre or a gym?”

Currently, the pool is partially heated with a limited season but if the heating was upgraded, there would be even more usage during winter when it was too cold to swim outdoors, she said.

A longer season would also mean more staff hours, making the job more attractive.

Renee Weir said she was a regular swimmer at the pool and it was in poor repair, with paint peeling off in large chunks and a leaking roof.

Her suggestion would be to rebuild the pool as a community health and fitness facility.

Mrs Weir said the local community was very supportive of such initiatives, as had been shown in fundraising for the Maniototo Hospital.

Until then, she and other parents were keen to volunteer as lifesavers, but the checks and training needed meant it would be well into March before they would be certified.