The Press reports that the demolition of Centennial Pool will begin next week, so that the construction can begin on the playground that was included in the Blueprint. I think this is a very, very bad decision. I don’t have a problem with the construction of a playground – it is probably one of the only things in the blueprint that has actually been held open for true, genuine consultation with the public. I just don’t think they need to take out the pool to build it.

Centennial Pool (from the Press)

The demolition of Centennial, as well as the previous demolition of QEII, means that there are now no public pools to the east of Colombo St. With the plan for the “Metro Sports Facility”, it looks like the money for what was QEII will be put towards a new complex in the western corner of the central city. This will mean that the west of the city has indoor pools at Northlands, Jellie Park, Pioneer Stadium and in the CBD, with additional outdoor pools at Halswell and Templeton. The outdoor pools remaining in the South-East – Waltham Lido and Lyttelton – are out of action, requiring quake repairs (they are only open for a couple of months a year anyway, due to Christchurch’s unforgettable summer weather). These pools aren’t just for recreation; they play a key role in teaching our children how to swim and keep safe in the water. It is irresponsible to pull down these facilities without any plan for how, where or when they will be replaced.

But aside from the wider issue of aquatic facilities, who decided that we needed to knock down a pool (a thing that kids like) to build a playground (a thing that kids like)? Surely we could have both. If someone at the CCDU had the brains, or the vision, or both, they could have integrated the pool into the wider playground campus. As Gerry seems obsessed with putting things in little precinct-shaped boxes, let’s call it “the Fun Precinct”. Families could go down to visit the pool for a swimming lesson, then reward the kids with a trip to the giant hippo slide next-door. It would increase the numbers of people using the space during the weekdays, when there shouldn’t be a whole lot of kids around.

It seems to me an example of CERA’s “blank canvas” mentality: wipe the slate clean and start again. Except here, as with most of the central city, the canvas isn’t totally blank, and doesn’t need to be. They could – and should – be thinking smarter, thinking bigger, and thinking about ways to integrate those buildings that are still left standing into their plans, rather than needlessly bulldozing them.