Lifeguard shortage impacts pools

An aqua aerobics class at Maldon's public pool. While pool operating hours have been impacted by the current lifeguard shortage, aqua aerobics classes will still be able to run.

A shortage of lifeguards due to COVID has forced some changes to the operating hours for public outdoor pools in Castlemaine, Harcourt, Maldon and Newstead.

Mount Alexander Shire Council late last week confirmed that the operating hours for its public outdoor swimming pools in each of these centres will be adjusted for the remaining four weeks of the pool season.

Changes to hours of operation became effective as of Monday, and will remain in place until the end of the pool season on Sunday March 13.

Details of the revised pool opening hours are:

• Weekends – all outdoor pools in Castlemaine, Harcourt, Maldon and Newstead to open as per normal operating hours.
• Weekdays – each outdoor pool will be open at least two weekdays, allowing for programming such as Aqua Aerobics and lap swimming to take place.

Mount Alexander Shire Council’s acting manager of parks, recreation and community facilities, Karen Evennett, said the decision to adjust pool opening hours was unfortunate but necessary, given the current lifeguard staffing challenges experienced by the council’s contract partner YMCA Victoria.

“Our outdoor swimming pools are much loved and well used by our communities, and we’ve been working in partnership with YMCA Victoria to ensure pool opening hours remain unchanged this year,” Ms Evennett said.

“Unfortunately there’s a lack of available trained lifeguards in the region, which is also reflected in the wider aquatic and recreation industry at the moment.

“Staff levels have been reduced due to COVID-19, and now as schools and universities return, many of our existing staff are unavailable to work.

“Water safety is always our highest priority, and we understand the expectation from our community for pools to be open as normal.

“The reality is that there isn’t enough staff to operate seven days a week across all townships, and to do so safely.”

The council is encouraging community members with the relevant lifeguard qualifications who are interested in supporting the shire’s outdoor swimming pools to stay open to contact council’s contract partner YMCA Victoria.

The adjusted timetable for outdoor pool opening hours can be found on the website.