Aquatic facilities have risen to meet the challenge of the flood disaster in Queensland and northern New South Wales, offering a safe haven for a number of evacuees.
While their contribution to health and wellbeing as a sport venue is well-recognised, less well known is the invaluable community role they play during disasters.
In the hardest hit areas, aquatic centres have been turned into evacuation centres. They are offering more than just a safe place to sleep, with staff and volunteers supporting individuals and families as they come to terms with the traumatic events, including the loss of much-loved community members.
Royal Life Saving aquatics national manager RJ Houston says the industry is good in a crisis and keen to play its part in response and recovery.
“During an emergency, the aquatic facility transforms what is normally space for recreation into temporary emergency housing, camp kitchens and information centres,” Houston says.
“Much of this effort is led by volunteers from the facility’s workforce, the wider council and other agencies.”
Centres need recovery themselves
Once communities start to emerge from the immediate crisis and the focus shifts to recovery, aquatic centres will need to work through their own recovery strategy.
Brad Page coordinator of regional leisure venues at Moreton Bay Council says many local businesses including swimming pools and swim schools may need significant work in order to reopen.
“Two of our facilities, Settlement Lagoon and Dayboro Pool, were completely inundated and are expected to remain closed for some time while repairs and cleaning occur,” Page says.
“Our remaining facilities are currently engaged in cleaning, treating the water, removing waste and assessing assets for damage before reopening to the public.”
Speaking of the impacts to the aquatic industry and the community, RLS CEO Justin Scarr says community infrastructure like aquatic and recreation centres, their staff and local volunteers are playing a critical role.
“For communities and an industry already battered by two and half years of smoke, fires, the covid-19 pandemic, worker shortages and now another 100-year flood event a decade after the last, this is another significant strain on the human and fiscal reserves needed to bounce back,” he says.
“What is clear is that community infrastructure, like aquatic facilities, can play an important role in disaster risk reduction and community resilience. We acknowledge and thank the aquatic industry workers and volunteers who are supporting communities across the east coast.”
CAPTION: An aquatic and recreation centre set up to house evacuees during the floods