PROTESTERS are making waves in Bendigo as they fight to keep their community pool.
The council originally voted to shut the pool in November, as part of Bendigo's long-term aquatic strategy and due to the cost of managing the Maple St site.
That decision was reaffirmed with a 5-4 vote at another council meeting last week.
But that prompted someone to break into the Maple St site, cutting a fence and several locks before refilling the pool with mains water at cost to ratepayers of between $2000 and $3000.
Local police were called to the scene yesterday and council officers began emptying the pool today as up to 15 protestors watched on.
Save Our Golden Square Pool spokesman Ken Hamilton said no one from his group was responsible for the break-in and he did not "condone acts of vandalism at all".
The council's Active and Healthy Communities manager Patrick Jess said the water would be reused at a road construction site.
But Mr Hamilton said he was "very disappointed" the council had sped up the decommissioning process and rejected a bid from two councillors to review the decision.
A notice of rescission from Cr Peter Cox and Cr Elise Chapman was knocked back by the council chief exeuctive Craig Niemann.
"I fully appreciate that the decision to close the pool has generated a passionate reaction from some sections of our community," Mr Niemann said.
"However, my responsibilities are clear in this regard . . . there is not sufficient justification to allow the rescission motion to proceed."
Mr Hamilton said the protestors wanted to know why the pool had to be closed.
"That's what we're trying to find out. We're disputing all their costings on what's required to get it up to scratch. The pool's been run down but we just can’t understand their motives," he said.
"We're really disappointed . . . there's been no community consultation whatsoever."
Mr Hamilton said last year's decision was made without any discussion with pool users, and that the council had since made only sparing attempts to engage with community meetings of up to 90 people.
"We're just asking to have genuine consultation to see what we need to do to get the pool up and running," he said.
Mr Jess said it was "understandable some locals are upset by this closure" but the decision had been made.
He said the council had undertaken a "detailed investigation and community consultation" between November and February.
"We had to determine how we keep the council's remaining pools operating in the context of the allocated budget," Mr Jess said.
"Admittedly the decision to close the pool was brought forward earlier than expected, and that was predominantly because we faced significant increased costs for the management of the pool."
He said the decommissioning would take place in two stages over six weeks and consultation would begin soon on the future use of the site.
"We're looking forward to sitting down with residents of the Golden Square community . . . to determine the most appropriate use of the site," Mr Jess said.
"The consultation process we undertake won't be a free-for-all – there'll be certain guidelines and certain planning principles adopted by council which the planning process will have to abide by."
But Mr Hamilton said their protest was not finished and a committee meeting was scheduled tonight to determine a new course of action.
He said VCAT refused to hear the case because it did not involve planning permits but he had taken the dispute to the Victorian Ombudsman.