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Continuing performance challenges at aquatic facilities in Western Australia

Continuing performance challenges at aquatic facilities in Western Australia
July 18, 2018

Aquatic facilities in Western Australia are facing a series of challenges with a newly released industry report showing declines in attendance, income and pool operator positions along with a rise in water consumption.

The Bigger, Better, Safer: Western Australian Aquatics Industry Report 2016/17, compiled by the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia for the Leisure Institute of Western Australia (LIWA) Aquatics, shows that in 2016/17 there were an estimated 10.3 million visitors to public swimming pools in the state, a 7% decrease from 2015/16. Similarly, the rate of patronage also decreased from 4.3 visits for every person in Western Australia in 2015/16 to four visits per head in the past year.

With Western Australia experiencing ongoing population growth, the decline shows a continued underachievement in attracting patronage, with even the record visitation levels to aquatic facilities in 2015/16 failing to match the proportional growth in Western Australia's population.

The Report advised that "regional areas continue to record higher rates of patronage per head of population in WA compared to the Perth and Mandurah region (4.8 compared to 3.9)" advising that the EsperanceGoldfields and Pilbara regions recorded the highest rates with 5.8 visits per person while the lowest rate was recorded in the Kimberley region with 3.5 visits per person.

Compiled from data from 79 aquatic centres, the Report also advises that annual expenditure at facilities declined from the previous year by $1,177,245, but noted that expenditure per head increased from $7.30 to $7.70 per patron year on year.

It also advised that since 2009/10, there had been an overall 38% increase in expenditure.

Advising that there are there were approximately 4,300 staff employed within the Western Australian aquatics industry - in roles including pool operators, lifeguards, swimming instructors, aquatic support staff and voluntary positions - the Report noted a decline in pool operators from 517 posts in 2015/16 to 480 positions available in 2016/17.

Another element for concern identified in Bigger, Better, Safer was water consumption, with, according to Water Corporation of Western Australia data, pools recording 1.19 billion litres of water usage in 2016/17 – a 3% increase from previous year.

While overall water consumption continued to trend downwards over the past decade, the increase was driven by facilities in the Kimberley, Wheatbelt and Pilbara regions which recorded the highest water usage per patron as almost four times the Western Australian average.

Recommendations from the report suggest “a focus on water saving strategies at pools, especially those located in the Kimberley, Wheatbelt and Pilbara.”

Another challenge for industry identified in the Report was in dealing with ‘at-risk community groups’, including the disabled, Indigenous Australians and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) groups.

Here the Report stated “the 2016/17 survey identified many gaps that limit the ability of centres to provide these programs to disadvantaged and minority groups.

“Affordability and funding were the most common challenges identified, and this also impacted on costs for patrons which limited participation.

“A lack of qualified staff also limited the programs that centres could offer and restricted the availability of classes at different times and on weekends (and) insufficient aquatic facilities, poor disabled access and no creche were other factors that centres reported that impacted on their ability to offer these types of programs.”

LIWA has also announced the appointment of Steve Good (pictured above) as its new Executive Officer, replacing Tony Head, who is cutting back his industry involvement after decades of service to aquatics.

Click here to download the full report via the LIWA Aquatics website. 

Article amended 21st July 2017, from original title 'Continuing operational challenges at aquatic facilities in Western Australia'.

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