Walcha History: Community bands together for Olympic-length pool

Cool change: The Walcha Pool at a quiet time with the children’s wading pool in the foreground.
Cool change: The Walcha Pool at a quiet time with the children’s wading pool in the foreground.

In June 1967, Walcha Council decided it should build an Olympic length pool of 50m rather than one of two-thirds Olympic length that was the basis of the original planning.

To do this and keep the overall cost to a manageable level, it was decided to limit the pool width to six lanes rather than the conventional eight lanes.

During December 1967, council instructed its consulting engineers to prepare working drawings and specifications, at which time community fundraising had reached well in excess of the $20,000 target.

Tenders for the pool were invited but all offers received were considered to be far too high and, as a result, the complex was built by council staff with considerable assistance by local clubs and individuals. Specialised work, such as water treatment, was undertaken by sub-contract.

The final cost was $126,000, which was $20,000 above council’s estimate but $18,000 below the lowest tender. Council’s costs were reduced by a $20,000 NSW government grant and also by the $22,000 realised by community fundraising.

The official opening ceremony was performed in October 1970 by Davis Hughes MP, Member for Armidale and Minister for Works.

It was long considered necessary that the pool water should be heated to prolong the swimming season and in March 1978, it was estimated a solar-powered system could be installed for $35,000, of which council would contribute 50 per cent, the NSW government 25 per cent by way of a grant, with the balance to be raised by the community. $12,000 was raised within two months, once again considerably more than the target.

Solar-powered pool heating equipment was installed as a joint effort between council and the Rotary Club of Walcha with support from other clubs and individuals.

The solar array, which covers quite a large area, is located in a fenced-off yard alongside the pool. The facility was officially “switched on” in March 1979 by Ken Booth MP, Minister for Sport and Recreation.

The original solar equipment was upgraded some years later, again by a joint effort between council and the Rotary Club.