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5 aquatic centres in New Zealand for inclusive facilities

It can be tough to find an asccessible aquatic centre in NZ. We've searched the length of New Zealand and these are our top five.

So there we were this Christmas holidays driving through the North Island with our van loaded to the gunnels with three kids, one in a wheelchair, the dog and me. And we rolled into Paraparaumu and decided to go for a swim. Boom! It felt like I’d won the lottery because, at the Coastlands Aquatic Centre, there was a well-equipped changing room and a relaxing warm pool.

After coming across this fantastic facility, which made going for a swim with my disabled 12-year-old actually quite easy, I decided to find out more about the best facilities available at other public aquatic centres around New Zealand. Sourced and recommended by our disabled communities, their common features are good access to the majority if not all of the pools, hydrotherapy or hot spring temperatures and changing facilities that provide for all levels of disability.

The regional centres have won the day with some awesome facilities. At all these facilities it was their disabled communities that first approached them. Along with their proactive communities came inclusive councils and centres who were willing to act on advice given.

1. Coastlands Aquatic Centre, Kapiti Coast

Coastlands was the first aquatic centre that we stumbled upon whilst travelling from Auckland to Wellington. It was such a welcome break from being on the road. We used their hot water pool instead of their main pool as Finlay (my son) can get a little anxious when there are too many people around. The moment he became submerged in the hot water pool his muscle tone relaxed tenfold and he gazed up at me with thankful eyes. From that moment on, we decided to make aquatic centres and hot pools our essential stopping point on any of our road trips.

Coastlands has an all-inclusive accessibility policy. Their facilities include:

  • hoist access into the lane and spa pools with trained staff available to assist
  • ramped access into the Lane Pool – the removable ramp structure is 15.4m long with handrails on each side and make from non-slip fibreglass
  • ramp access into the Pak’n’Save Programme Pool
  • disabled change rooms including one designed for higher disability needs
  • the facility is all on one level and easy to navigate with automated sliding doors and wide passageways.

2. Makino Aquatic Centre, Feilding

Makino Aquatic Centre is my top pick of all the awesome facilities I discovered. Makino is the full package and the staff are very passionate about their centre being utilized by the whole community and being a fully inclusive community hub. They sought the guidance of the Office of Disability Issues’ ‘Think Differently Program’.

One of the centres’ sponsors, Tim from Tim’s Storage Lockups knew only too well how important access to a swimming facility would be for him to regain his mobility after a vehicle accident. So he was super passionate about being able to get the accessibility project off the ground. 

Another quality that makes Makino Aquatic Centre so inclusive is that they provide swimming lessons for those with sensory, cognitive and physical impairments. They have trained and dedicated staff that have gained a certificate ‘Access & Inclusion (TAI) through AustSwim Aotearoa. Both the instructors and lifeguards have also received rigorous training in handling adaptive equipment and different mobility needs.

The Makino Aquatic Centre is committed to providing a fully inclusive environment. Their facilities include:

  • Pool hoists which can take up to a max 135kg weight.
  • They have two slings SMALL and LARGE – you are also welcome to bring your own providing it is hygienically clean and waterproof.
  • There are 9 anchor points for the mobile hoist to be attached to – one servicing each pool.
  • There are two forms of seating/sling to gain entry into the pool via the mobile hoist: a standard seat for those who can support themselves, and a wraparound style sling for those people who need more support.
  • Ramped entry with the use of a water wheel to the 25m pool.
  • They also have a 50m, 25m, Diving Pool and Learners Pool area.
  • They have THREE disabled changing facilities. ONE which is standard and TWO that provide a ceiling track hoist that can access the toilet, shower area and the height adjustable change table with safety bar.

3. Selwyn Aquatic Centre, Christchurch

The Selwyn Aquatic Centre opened on 24 June 2013. The centre features an 8-lane 25m main pool, hydrotherapy, learn to swim and a leisure pool with a lazy river pool. They have a swim school and cater for people of all ages, their pools are accessible and have walk or wheel in access.

Selwyn Aquatic Centre in Christchurch looks to provide for the whole community, and facilities include:

  • A disabled changing facility that is equipped with a hoist and change table.
  • The hydrotherapy pool, 25m and leisure pool all have ramp/wheelchair access.
  • The facility also has a hoist in the spa pool.
  • Two water wheelchairs.

4. Gore Multi-Sports Complex Aquatic Centre, Gore

This Complex is made up of the Gore Aquatic Centre, the MLT Event Centre, Ice Sports Southland ice rink and Eastland Southland hockey’s water turf. The aquatic centre offers lane swimming, aqua aerobics, the Leaping Frogs Swim School and Shark Squad, hydrotherapy pool, leisure pool and kiddie pool. The four-court event centre can be set up for training, competitions, netball, basketball, indoor soccer, volleyball and tennis. The ice rink is an Olympic short course sized rink, used for figure skating, ice hockey and curling.

The Gore Aquatic Centre has a large range of disability equipment.

Out on pool side, they have two hoists. One at the Main Pool and the other at the Hydrotherapy Pool. The friendly pool side staff are available and trained to assist you with the hoists.

They also have a wet wheelchair available to get you from the changing room and into the pool.

They have a Disability Changing Room, which provides a safe space to shower and change. Features include:

  • Wet floor shower with built-in seat
  • Brand new electric, height adjustable change table
  • Hoist for transfer to and from table to wet chair
  • Toilet and hand basin
  • Storage space for your items
  • The extra safety benefit of a ‘staff assist’ button for if you get into difficulty.

5. AC Baths – Taupo

Taupo is an excellent place to have an all-inclusive aquatic centre. The township is flat and well maintained. It is a good spot to stop over in if you are heading up or down the North Island. It is also a good destination to holiday in and find lots of accessible things to occupy your time.

AC Baths is an all-weather, family-friendly pool complex with a large outdoor leisure pool, two toddler areas, and two 25-metre lane pools. It has an indoor learn to swim pool, two hydroslide, a tarzan swing, four private thermal mineral pools, a sauna and a café. All the pools are thermally heated using natural hot water.

AC Baths, are committed to providing for their whole community. They obtained ‘accessibility advice’ from Lakeland IHC and ACC back in 2012. The Taupo District Council came on board to help fund the access facilities along with a number of other providers in the area. They then began upgrading the facility with the following key features:

  • Ramped access into leisure pools using an aquatic wheelchair
  • Chair lift to access the non-ramped pools
  • One bran new disabled changing facility with a ceiling track hoist that accesses wet-floor shower, change bed and toilet.
  • One aquatic wheelchair available for use to access pool areas
  • Excellent open space for easy access
A big shout out to these aquatic centres that are also fully accessible and also have great fully inclusive changing facilities

We also love this video showing accessibility improvements at Dudley Park Aquatic Centre (Waimakariri District Council), with more on the horizon.

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