The 2011 North West Seminar was a great success with over 50 delegates and trade representatives in attendance over the 3 days of the seminar.  Hosted by the Shire of Exmouth at the town's recreation and aquatic facilities the hospitality, the weather and the location were all wonderful.

The seminar kicked off on the Thursday morning when the Royal Life Saving Societies team of managers from the remote indigenous pools got together for an in-service session.  The session highlighted what had been a very tough season for all aquatic facilities in the North West and when the facilities are situated hundreds of kilometres from a major town its can be very difficult indeed.

The managers were flooded in for extended periods, they had massive influxes of people to the community for Law and had their communities evacuated for a variety of problems.  But through all this the pools remained open and they were able to conduct programs that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the communities.  The RLSSWA program Swim for Fruit that is supported by Heathway's is a great initiative and one that demonstrates the need to assist the communities in the provision of fresh produce for the kids.

The one sombre note was the complete flooding of the Warmun Community Pool and the loss of the Pool Managers house and all the families' possessions.  The Department of Housing is working hard to ensure the pool and the housing is refurbished in time for next season starting in September.  It was great to see Jamie and his young family in such high spirits after such a traumatic event.

Chris Blankley then took centre stage at the pool to conduct a session on the correct operation of SCBA units and reinforce the donning and doffing of the units and the correct protocols required for using the BA.  The session was attended by 20 delegates and was well received by all the participants.

Most of the seminar delegates organised to meet at the Potshot Hotel for dinner on the Thursday night and it turned out to be a fun night and was a great way to catch up with everyone prior to seminar on Friday.

The seminar was started this year with a traditional welcome to country by a Local Elder before the official opening by the CEO of the Shire of Exmouth, Bill Price.  Bill is well known to LIWA Aquatics members as the CEO of a number of local governments in the south west and a great supporter of the aquatic industry.  Given his attire for the day, board shorts, Mambo shirt and thongs he looks like he is enjoying the lifestyle and will probably stay in town quite a while.  We were lucky he was able to delay his days fishing to open the seminar and promote the great work Josh Koontz does in managing the local pool for the Shire.  Ross Peters the President of RLSSWA then spoke briefly to the delegates and congratulated them on the work they do for their communities in the North West and his pride in the partnership that is in place with LIWA Aquatics and the industry.

Bill Price CEO Shire of Exmouth

The first presentation of the day was delivered by Steve Atkinson of the Water Corporation; Steve is very well known to our industry now and is in regular contact with managers across the state.  The presentation painted a very gloomy picture of the in-fill to dams in the South West over the 2010 winter period.  It will certainly be a very difficult situation if that low level of rainfall is repeated this winter.  It will put immense pressure on the Water Corporation infrastructure to supply water to South West consumers even with the new desalination unit coming on stream in December 2011.

Steve and Josh

Steve's message to the delegates included the need to understand their water usage, read their meters regularly, look at their reticulation systems and ensure the pool was not leaking massive amounts of water.  Also to reduce shower flow by installing low flow shower heads and to consider the facilities wash down protocols to reduce water.  All these actions will help us reduce the amount of water we consume as an industry.

The next presentation was provided by the WA Health Department and delivered by Tony Head on behalf of Llew Withers.  The session updated the delegates on the recent changes to the Code of Practice including the changes to the requirements for Spa Pools and Disability Access Legislation.  Tony also worked through the agreed procedures for dealing with solid stool contamination and the new power outage procedure. The vexing issue of dealing with loose stool contamination in the aquatic environment is ongoing.  The issue is very complex because some of the procedures in place around the world would see some of our older facilities closed for up to 2 days after a contamination due to their turnover rates.  LIWA Aquatics will continue to work on this issue with the WA Health Department until we come up with a workable solution to the problem.

Great to see a room full of delegates

After a chat and some morning tea the delegates visited the Exmouth Pool for a site visit.  The pool is very centrally located for the community and is beautifully maintained by Josh and the Shire of Exmouth.  Like many pools in the region it was built in the mid sixties and is now ready for a contemporary makeover to take it into the second evolution of its lifecycle.  The CEO Bill Price indicated this was on the agenda in the next couple of years with the first step of determining the structural integrity of the pool shell planned for the next financial year.

The pool itself is set in a lush tropical setting with a 50 meter pool and two integrated toddlers pools that are completely shaded to protect the kids from the extreme weather conditions.  There are palm trees, play equipment and a great club house for the local swimming club to ensure the promotion of both competitive swimming and the RLSS Swim and Survive Program.  The Exmouth Aquatic Centre is one that the local community can be very proud of and a great example of how our pools should be presented to the public.  Well done.

Exmouth Aquatic Centre

The next session was a workshop that focused on how costs may be shared in the North West in the areas of service, maintenance and purchasing.  Chris promoted the notion that we have firmly established networks in place and by working together we may be able to establish regular servicing runs out of Perth whereby costs of travel and accommodation may be shared by the local governments.

The delegates saw merit in this method and it provoked a wide ranging discussion on how this may work and the relative advantages of pursing this collaborative approach to servicing and maintenance.  After the wind up of this session the delegates broke for a beautiful lunch that was provided the Shire of Exmouth and sponsored by West Coast Shade.

After a lunch in the warm North West sun our MC led the delegates into our first session of the afternoon that focused "Recruiting and Retaining Staff in the North West".  Chris had some excellent ideas and suggestions with his presentation which you can find along with the rest of the presentations on the LIWA Aquatics web site.  To break up the afternoon Chris then had the delegates split into three groups and used the collective knowledge of Karin Kelly, Mark Harper and Josh Koontz.

The groups had 15 minutes in each session where they workshopped the following three topics:

  • Preparing for severe weather conditions and the clean up afterwards
  • Maintaining automatic dosing equipment
  • Preparing documentation for quotes and specifications

There was a great level of interest shown by the delegates and everyone participated and gained some additional knowledge to take back to the workplace.

Karin facilitating a workshop

After a short break and a cup of coffee Tony presented a review of the Watch Around Water program from 2010-11 season provided by Lauren Nimmo the program Manager.  The session detailed the positive outcomes of the past season with the introduction of Walter the Watchdog and the "Lifeguards Now Targeting" signs that were provided to all regional facilities.

Tony provided and outlined of the proposed new resources including new poster designs and promotional materials.  The program's success was attributed to the strong commitment of Pool Mangers working together on this important community message. This commitment is for all group one pools in WA and to continue to grow the program in South Australia and Victoria.  A questionnaire was completed by the delegates to assist LIWA Aquatics develop the program and its imagery for the next 2 - 3 years.

Following on from Tony was Salvatore Siciliano from the Department of Sport and Recreation Gascoyne Region who welcomed delegates to the region and commended LIWA Aquatics on the bringing this seminar to Exmouth.  Salvatore discussed the opportunity for small equipment grants as well as the CSRFF program for major upgrades to the pool facilities.  It was great to see the DSR involved again with this year's seminar as they have been great supporters for many years.

The final session of the day is one that everyone enjoys participating in and provides an opportunity to discuss the past season and plans for the future.  From major flooding, to minor damage to tornados and pools blanketed with dust and mud, 2011 will be a season no one will forget in a hurry.  There were a number of first time delegates at this years seminar with many driving 1000's of kilometres to attend, with Max from Halls Creek attending via Broome, Perth and then to Exmouth and return.  It was also great to see the team from Carnarvon attending the seminar for the first time and some new faces to the industry engaging and developing their networks with the LIWA Aquatics family.

Chris completed the wrap up and thanked all the sponsors that attended or provided tangible support for the seminar.  These included:

  • Greg Jones and Chadson Engineering for their support of the delegates new hats
  • Royal Life Saving Society for a range of support for this years event
  • West Coast Shade to sponsored food and beverage on the day
  • Mark and Carol Harper from AVP Commercial Pools who sponsored pre seminar drinks
  • Ed Mordaski from Sigma for a great show bag for the delegates and drinks sponsorship at the annual dinner
  • Jonathon Cox from Miracle who also provided drinks sponsorship for the annual dinner
  • The Department of Sport and Recreation for its ongoing support of LIWA Aquatics
  • The Shire of Exmouth and Josh Koontz who provided the venue and made bringing the conference to Exmouth very easy

It will be a very difficult decision to find a more agreeable venue in the North West after the experience in Exmouth with affordable accommodation and great support from the Shire.

With the formal side of the day over the delegates met again at 7pm at Graces Tavern for a beautiful meal and a few drinks in the beer garden.  The night provided a great opportunity to get to know people better and discuss relevant issues in a very agreeable setting.  The night was tempered for many of the delegates as they were due to be up early to complete their Pool Lifeguard requalification at the Exmouth Pool.

Andy and Nanou

Trevor and Adelle

Mark and Carol

Old Blokes Passing Through!

As with all events such as this they don't just happen and a great deal of thanks must go to Chris Blankley, Karin Kelly and John East for their continued involvement in this now institutional event.  From humble beginnings 15 years ago the seminar attracted over 50 delegates and trade suppliers to this years event and shows that "Maintaining the Network" is of critical importance to our industry members.

From my own perspective it was great to be involved for the first time and I am very glad Karin twisted my arm to attend my first North West Seminar.  I would hope that our President Jeff Fondacaro will be available next year to attend as well.


Tony Head

Executive Officer

LIWA Aquatics

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