Herald Editorial on Len’s pools

The Herald editorial slams Len’s pools plan:

Mayor Len Brown has gone to some lengths to promote his plan to make Auckland’s municipal swimming pools free.

Having detected an “overwhelming sentiment” during the election campaign to replicate Manukau’s free pools across the city, he pumped up the proposal by making it part of his “100 projects in 100 days” programme.

Never mind that critics said there was no public call for free pools beyond Manukau, and that people were simply responding as they would to any free offer. The Mayor ploughed ahead regardless and sought confirmation of his view through a report from international consultancy KPMG.

I really wonder about that KPMG report, so does the Herald.

Unfortunately for Mr Brown, that report provides anything but solid backing. It puts the cost of free entry to the Auckland Council’s 24 pools at just $5.5 million, even though it cost $6.7 million to provide this to Manukau’s six pools when Mr Brown was mayor of that city.

This is completely contrary to suggestions that it would cost up to $50 million a year to provide such a service. The reason for the discrepancy is that, astoundingly, KPMG assumes free access would create an initial increase in use but that, in the long term, this would settle to around current levels, and that new revenue would be collected from spas, sauna, steam programmes, and retail sales.

Is anyone up for the audit services of KPMG now?

Mr Brown is sticking to his guns, saying he sees no need to doubt the study’s accuracy. Yet, even setting the dubious assumption on patronage aside, there is good reason to believe he should be rethinking his plan.

KPMG has based its figures on a projection from just six swimming pools. That, in itself, suggests thoroughness has been sacrificed in the interests of the Mayor’s wish for quick action.

Incredible that KPMG would risk their reputation with such apparently shoddy work.

Council pools are already heavily subsidised by ratepayers. Each visit to Manukau’s six free pools is estimated to cost ratepayers $3.76. Extending that largesse across the city would simply be too expensive, no matter the well-meaning urge to teach children to be safe and confident around water.

To that end, most people outside Manukau seem to find it no obstacle to pay something like $6 for adult entry and $3 for children. Others find it perfectly convenient to use Auckland’s many fine beaches to ensure their children learn water safety.

In that context, there seems little reason to extend free pools across the city. Given the uneven distribution of pools and all Aucklanders’ easy access to the waters of the Waitemata and the Manukau, a stronger case could be made for instituting full user charges. Better that than an option that ends up costing nothing like what people expected.

No doubt LGOIMA requests about all this will be met with secrecy, murk and lengthy delays.


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  • Rockyr

    The answer seems to be to close the six Manakau Pools and save $6.5 million and make free entry to the other 24 pools at a cost of $5.5 million.

    • Steve (North Shore)

      This Len guy is onto it. Close the six Manukau pools and run the rest on $5.5M.
      That gives him a $1.2M deposit on his train set

  • Notrotsky

    Have dealt with a few KPMG people of the years, a couple of very good people but the rest were dross and some were utter muppets. Looks like this report was completed by the muppet variety.

    • ConwayCaptain

      Unfortunately these ACCOUNTANCY firms have over the years put themselves up as CONSULTANTS on all sorts of subjects which they know nothing about.

      In Shipping Corp we used to get KPMG, PWC etc  trotting down to the ships to do consultancy work.

      The reports would be published and as senior officers we would be asked for comments and all the holes were pointed out and how unfeasable many of the recommendation were.

      Unfortunately no one took any notice of the Masters, C/Engs and they accepted the reports and followed them  Months later they would see the error of their ways and try and correct the problem but by that time it was too late.

  • Hakim of phut

    there are two issues here . One the current admission charges dont cover the ‘full’ cost of the pools. Often just collecting an entry charge can be 30% of the revenue. So even less is available for  the  rest of the costs of the pool.
    The manukau ‘cost’ may merely be  what revenue they would have paid ‘if they were charged entry’ Yes councils economics are usually airy fairy stuff.

    • Alloytoo

      Manukau cost is probably a simple costs over usage calculation.

      Manukau pools are probably better patronised than other Auckland pools and the cost per user is no doubt significantly lower. These free pools also charge for a number of additional services and facilties to help make up the costs.

      What would the negative effect be on those income streams be if charging an entry fee substantially lowers patronage?

      Would the entrance fee (also on lower patronage) make up for it?

  • Gazzaw

    What are councils doing operating swimming pools anyway? Lease em off to private enterprise.
    User pays.

  • Ran a post on this the other day. Had to laugh at the bit about increased retail sales, presumably from hot chips and coke. Quoting myself: Although, I find pinning your hopes on increased food sales (ice creams, chips and coke) an oxymoron; pools to promote health and exercise, and hello after 90 minutes lets chow down on chips and coke – no wonder why it was a success for South Auckland – the junk food paid for the damn pool… Talk about giving in one hand and taking in the other…

    But hey pays for the pools right?

  • Horce the Grump

    Consultants = people you give your watch to, to help you tell the time….  All of the major accounting firms ‘consultancy’ practices are run by muppets and govt agencies constantly go to them for their brands…

    typical outcome though – that’s what you get for hiring accountants to do an economist’s job.

  • Apolonia

    Why not close all the pools and get everyone to swim at the wharf when ports of Auckland go broke.

    • Steve (North Shore)

      Free? Or free swiming but fee for entering the Wharves?
      I would not trust Len as far as I could kick the prick

  • Chris

    Last time I looked Auckland was surrounded by  water (The sea) and its free.

    Go to the Beach.

    • Rockfield


      I know it’s sad, but I once saw some figures where somethng like 25-30% of South Auckland primary schoolers had never been to a beach …..

      Something missing there.


    • jay cee


      • SalaciousTCrumb

        Theme from Jaws or Wedding March from Lohengrin?

      • jay cee

        jaws we were talking about beaches. sheesh!