At least six golf courses in Melbourne were converted to public parkland during the city’s long lockdown last year, including in Northcote where residents kept cutting the high-wire fence.
The public health orders forbid councils from opening most pools, but allow beaches and “natural swimming pools” to remain open. That means people who live in seaside LGAs such as Northern Beaches, Waverley, Randwick and Sutherland and some harbourside areas such as Woollahra and Mosman can swim, but most people inland can not.
Randwick Council is using the “natural swimming pool” clause to keep Wylie’s Baths in Coogee open, but other councils cannot open outdoor pools with a similar set-up because they are constructed rather than carved into the cliffs.
Inner West Council completed an $8 million heritage restoration of harbourside pool Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain in July but the pool remains closed for now, because it’s a wooden construction that sits over the harbour rather than a natural pool.
Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne said he “did not begrudge the people of the eastern suburbs a swim” but was sad that most Sydneysiders had been cut off from the ocean as well as public pools because it was a great way to “wash away COVID-blues”.
Many residents of Inner West Council – a relatively dense area with 789 residents for every hectare of public space – live within 10km of the ocean but not five.
Cr Byrne said he had been inundated with requests to re-open Dawn Fraser Baths since the 5km rule was introduced and he believed it should be allowed with limited numbers as part of the Premier’s much-discussed freedoms for reaching vaccine milestones.
“We can manage 10 or 15 people in an outdoor, ocean pool without risking COVID transmission,” Cr Byrne said.
“We’ve stuck strictly to NSW Health orders throughout the crisis and will continue to do so now but everyone is desperately looking forward to taking a dip in Dawny’s when we are allowed.”
NSW Health declined to comment on why the public health orders allow natural swimming pools – even ones that are pay per entry and have staff on site – to stay open while other pools must close.
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