NEWCASTLE’S five public swimming pools could be handed to private operators, after city councillors voted to investigate outsourcing options last night.
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The surprise move came after Labor councillors had unsuccessfully attempted to exclude Stockton Pool from any future discussions about closure.

The Labor motion was voted down six to four.

Cr Andrea Rufo (independent) then moved the council review the operations of all its pools – at Stockton, Lambton, Wallsend, Mayfield and Beresfield – to see whether they could be managed by a third party.

“I don’t want to see Stockton pool close, nor do I want to see any pool close,” Cr Rufo said.

He specifically mentioned Port Stephens Council, which outsources the operation of its three public pools by tender. The Port Stephens pools are all run by the Young Men’s Christian Association.

His motion was passed by the same six votes to four.

Council general manager Ken Gouldthorp said last week there was “no intent to close any pools at this time”.

Cr Stephanie Posniak, who moved the Labor-backed motion, said Stockton Pool “may not be at risk at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not at risk in the future”. Cr Posniak tendered petitions with 1500 signatures supporting retention.

“Before the pool was built, the people of Stockton went around and physically collected money which contributed towards the building of the pool,” she said.

Liberal councillor Lisa Tierney said the motion amounted to “scaremongering”.

“To offer one pool immunity [is] very unfair,” Cr Tierney said.

Cr Sharon Waterhouse (Liberal) said it was “difficult when we’re considering the strategy across the whole city to focus on one particular asset”.

Internally, the council discussed the possible closure of Stockton and Beresfield pools earlier this year but watered these proposals down when documents were made public.

A report given to councillors last week said attendances were declining and subsidies increasing at Stockton.

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