Splash Palace loses youth vote

Making waterslides free at certain times, having gender-neutral toilets and engaging via TikTok are among Invercargill City Council’s ideas for bringing young people to its pool.

Splash Palace identified that people between the ages of 14 and 25 were not well engaged at the facility.

Staff asked the Vodafone Foundation to undertake a project to identify key issues as to why this age group was not participating in Splash Palace services and what methods could be used to increase their participation.

The report was presented to councilors earlier this week by the council’s director of aquatic services, Stephen Cook, at a meeting of the Community Wellbeing Committee.

The research found that barriers included cost, hygiene issues and a lack of more exciting pool activities.

He also said LGBTQI teens don’t feel safe with the current locker room setup.

Solutions offered included promoting more targeted events like pool parties for young people, improving engagement in their favorite platforms like TikTok, exploring the viability of having more private/individual locker rooms for general use and to study the possibilities of pricing tickets which could in particular make free slides at certain times for young people.

Cr Grant Dermody asked if there was any data on declining youth attendance. Mr Cook said he did not have precise figures for this age group, but it was a trend that had been noticed for a long time.

While praising the effort and reasoning behind the report, he asked if Splash Palace was the place young people would like to socialize as he was concerned that if more young people used the facility it could affect other regular groups like the families and elderly users.

Mana whenua rep Evelyn Cook also asked if this was the right approach.

She said the way people engage in recreational activities has changed.

“As someone who’s worked in a swimming pool, can I just say that 14 to 23 year olds are the ones you don’t want if they don’t have any particular purpose in mind, because they’re the nuisance.”

She thought it was important to get them involved in activities like swimming lessons and sports, but wondered if this was the right demographic to focus on.

President Darren Ludlow and Crs Trish Boyle and Lesley Soper disagreed with her.

They believed the pool was the right place to bond.

“We have here an identified group that is not using it in a way that we might expect and some sensible ideas for how we might explore that.

“It’s not the answer to everything, but it’s a good start,” said Cr Soper.


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