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Push to build more harbourside ocean pools in Sydney

New South Wales has plenty of ocean pools and rock pools located throughout the state, but Sydney is desperate for more outdoor swimming pools to take advantage of the beautiful harbour surrounds, warm seawater temperatures and sunny weather. 

Ocean swimming has skyrocketed in the past 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic and ocean pools and outdoor pools have become in demand to help people stay in shape while being stuck at home. 

City of Sydney Liberal candidate Lyndon Gannon is calling for a series of free netted saltwater pools to be created in Sydney Harbour, which would be far cheaper than digging holes in the round and encoding pools on land. 

In a plan that has the broad support of NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes, Mr Gannon is calling for harbourside pools to be built at Beare Park, Elizabeth Bay, Marrinawi (Nawi) Cove at Barangaroo, Pirrama Park at Pyrmont and either Rozelle Bay or Blackwattle Bay in Glebe.

Dawn Fraser Baths - A popular harbourside pool in Sydney
Dawn Fraser Baths – A popular harbourside pool in Sydney

“What better way to get local communities together than having a picnic and a dip on a sunny afternoon down on the harbour?” Mr Gannon, a former lifeguard at the recently reopened Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain, said. 

“They will be relatively inexpensive to build and maintenance costs will be low compared with recently opened council facilities.

“The recently opened Gunyama Park pool in Zetland cost $106 million to build and millions per annum to run. 

“We can build these four new amazing baths for a fraction of that, and the tides will do the cleaning for us.”

The Sydney Harbour has a long history of outdoor pools, many of which have disappeared but current pools include Balmoral Baths, Murrage Rose Beach, Dawn Fraser Baths and Nielsen Park in Vaucluse. 

Canada Bay Council is also planning to build nets at Bayview Park at Concord.

“What could be more Australian than stripping down to your cossie or boardies in the summer and diving straight into the harbour?” Mr Stokes said. 

“I would love for the public to be able to swim there. In Copenhagen and Paris they open their waterways for the summer – our weather is so good we could do it all year round.”

Balmoral Baths
Balmoral Baths

In Sydney’s west, much of the focus will be on how councils deal with the mid-October reopening of chlorinated swimming pools. 

UNSW epidemiologist Professor Marylouise McLaws said there will need to be a combination of rapid antigen testing and double vaccination to make indoor pools safe. 

“Kids in primary school can’t get vaccinated because there isn’t yet one developed and they are at risk of infection,” Prof McLaws said. 

“Kids 12-15-year-olds won’t be offered vaccination until 70 per cent of adults are reached and it will take several months for 12-15-year-olds to have their second dose to reach maximum immunity. 

“Rapid antigen testing can reduce risk from other kids and parents.” 

Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour hinted there may be a two-tiered system between indoor and outdoor pools, saying “the evidence tells us it’s harder to get it (Covid) outdoors”.

“If the government feels it is safe we will open pools straight away with a Covid safe plan, especially outdoor pools,” he said.

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