A former Mataura Centennial Pool lifeguard, Donna Burr, rang the bell to start and end the day for the final time on Sunday.
About 75 swimmers and 20 spectators attended the pool’s final day, enjoying a raft of free activities such as volleyball, inflatables, and paddle-boat rides.
Adding to the festive atmosphere was a lolly scramble and sausage sizzle.
Mrs Burr said she was happy with the numbers present which made for an “energetic” day.
Mrs Burr started working as a lifeguard at the pool eight years ago.
Since the 2015 announcement of the pool’s closure she applied for the Gore Aquatic Centre operations supervisor job and had been in that position for 16 months.
The closure of the Mataura pool would bring “a tear to the eye” at the end of the day, she said.
“I have been here a while now. I saw the numbers rise and then deplete again and then saw the writing on the wall, so I applied for the pool operations supervisor position and got it.”
The Gore District Council decided to close the pool in 2015 amid growing concerns about falling patronage, combined with escalating operational and maintenance costs.
Gore aquatics services manager Kim Peterson said her staff had worked hard over the years to promote the pool and attract swimmers.
“In the end, though, the cost per swim at Mataura rose to $21.21 compared to only $11.94 for the Gore Aquatic Centre, which is only 10 minutes up the road.”
It was great to see so many new faces yesterday, Ms Peterson said.
“There were even a few people who had swum there when it was an outdoor pool.”
A 10-swim concession to use the Gore Aquatic Centre was awarded to the last child in the pool, Ms Peterson said.
Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said he had fond memories of visiting the pool as a boy growing up in Mataura.
“It used to be the social hub for young people.”
However, the reality today was that recreational expectations were a far cry from those in the 1960s and ’70s, Mr Hicks said.
Although the council’s operation of the pool has ended, a trust is hoping to take it over. Representatives from the Mataura Enriching Lives Trust (Melt) met Mr Hicks, senior councillors and the chief executive last week.
Mr Hicks said the aims of the trust were commendable.
“It’s heartening to see a group working constructively to see if there is a way to run the Mataura pool independently from the council.”
At the meeting the trust was given six months to develop a viable business plan for the pool’s operation.
Only once an acceptable business plan was received could the council consider leasing the building to the trust, Mr Hicks said.
“We’ve given an assurance we won’t do anything to the pool over the next six months that will prevent the trust from reopening it,” he said.
However, trustees were told not to underestimate the challenges they faced.
“We need to make it clear, the council will not provide funding for the operation of the pool and needs to be fully satisfied the trust is able to meet all the legal obligations of running a public swimming pool before anything happens.”
Mr Hicks believed six months would give the trust enough time to complete its business plan without compromising the ambitions of other parties working on alternative proposals for the swimming pool.