"This is not of our making, it's a government thing," MidCoast Council Cr Len Roberts said about unsupervised public pools not reopening when other council pools have.
Cr Roberts was speaking about a notice of motion put forward by Cr Karen Hutchinson at this month's October ordinary meeting in Taree about unsupervised community pools at Stroud, Bulahdelah, Nabiac and Krambach.
"It is unfortunate that council has had to keep our unstaffed community pools closed to the general public for yet another swimming season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," Cr Hutchinson wrote in her report.
"While it is appreciated that swim schools can continue, I believe that it's time to consider contracting the management and operation services of our community pools so as to prevent any future closures."
While supervised indoor and outdoor pools are now open to double vaccinated people, unsupervised community swimming pools "slipped through the crack" of the State government's reopening plan.
Cr Hutchinson's Notice of Motion asked staff to report on cost implications and a plan for contracting out the management and operation services for the four pools in terms of future use of the pools post COVID, and to liaise with Cathryn Cusack MLC and local members Dave Layzell and Stephen Bromhead to try and get the health orders changed for public unsupervised pools so they can reopen to the public.
Cr Hutchinson said she had been approached by members of her community to form a volunteer group which would enable to re-opening of Stroud pool.
However, when Cr Hutchinson presented the plan to council, she said it was 'boo-hooed' by staff, who said the risk assessment showed too great a risk for volunteers.
"It's not just a matter of opening the gates to these pools.
"There are stringent rules that have to be followed."
It's not just a matter of opening the gates to these pools. There are stringent rules that have to be followed.Cr Karen Hutchinson
Cr Kathryn Smith believed there was merit in volunteer groups staffing local unsupervised pools, and asked why it wasn't possible.
Director of liveable communities, Paul De Szell explained that it was not such a simple matter.
"For the purposes of various pieces of legislation, and I only recently found out that public health orders are included, volunteers are considered to be workers of council so they are subject to the same requirements as council staff," Mr De Szell said.
"They're also subject to the same requirements in a work health safety perspective as well," he said.
"So we need to make sure we protect and adequately train any volunteers.
"We don't have any volunteers that operate any council facilities at this point in time, as far as I know.
"We only have volunteers that assist trained staff to operate facilities.
"It would be very much a departure from our normal mode of business, and there would be a significant body of planning work that would have to be done to even remotely consider the use of volunteers in that space.
"The risk to council is, to put it quite plainly, we're asking a volunteer to police an unsupervised pool.
"So they're going to police COVID numbers, they're going to look at the safety of pool users.
"I would not recommend that council accept that responsibility.
"Council ought to be working with the State in freeing up the public health orders.
"In the meantime we will look at the future use of our unsupervised pools and report to council for that purpose."
General manager, Adrian Panuccio said while the general public could not swim at the pool: "If you've got a COVID safe plan and you have a group, you can still use those pools. It's just not a free for all as it was before."
"I don't want everyone to think you can just form a group and go and hire our pool," Cr Hutchinson said.
"You need $20 million in public liability insurance before you do."