Built in 1946, the Physio Pool was instrumental in establishing new standards in hydrotherapy. It was the first purpose-built pool for the rehabilitative treatment of patients in New Zealand. The pool represented developments towards more intensive exercise-based rehabilitative medicine in the mid-20th century. Designed by Mason & Wales Architects, the pool has a category two listing with Heritage New Zealand (formerly New Zealand Historic Places Trust).As well as its role in neuro-muscular rehabilitation, the pool was used for pioneering work in post-myocardian infarction rehabilitation (Nye, 1976). The pool rapidly gained an international reputation with overseas doctors, who made a point of visiting it during their stays in Dunedin. One such doctor – Sir Reginald Watson-Jones, orthopaedic surgeon to Her Majesty The Queen – wrote in the Preface of his book Fractures and Joint Injuries that,

In New Zealand, at Dunedin, I saw one of the finest physiotherapy departments in the world, including many gymnasia and treatment-rooms as well as a full-sized swimming pool reserved for old ladies and gentlemen recovering from severe fractures and major operations’

(Watson-Jones, 1960, VIII).

Until 1982 the pool was reserved for the therapeutic purposes of the Dunedin Public Hospital and the NZ School of Physiotherapy. Since 1983, and following a threatened closure, it has operated as both a hospital treatment facility and a public swimming pool.

The Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust was established in 1983, to maintain the use of the pool for therapeutic purposes by patients from hospitals in Otago and for the general public. The Trust’s main role has been to operate the public sessions and provide qualified life-guards, provisioning of facilities and cleaning. In the past it has also funded specific plant upgrades.

The central location on the flat, by the hospital and physio facilities, near supermarkets, shops and main transport routes, provides an incredibly convenient exercise option. The pool is smaller, quieter and warmer than Moana Pool as the water temperature is maintained around 35 degrees celsius. Anyone who has slipped into the comfort of a warm bath already has some appreciation for the benefits of pool therapy. The non-threatening environment is ideal for people with disabilities to pursue their rehabilitation. It has also been significantly instrumental in assisting people to recover from injury or surgery. The changing facilities are located a few steps from the pool making for very easy access while the warm water temperature provides an opportunity to exercise without getting cold, a necessity for some of the pool users. The Physio Pool is open to the public and is indoors. It is a key Dunedin health and recreational facility and an important part of the rehabilitation facilities that are required in the Otago area.

The Southern District Health Board looks after the building, plant and water quality. The SDHB has decided that from the end of 2014 it will withdraw any further funding of operational costs and upgrades. As a consequence, the Trust has to find the funds for the share of the operating costs which the SDHB previously funded. The Trust will also have to shoulder the entire responsibility for the pool including funding future maintenance and upgrades.

If you would like to help save the Physio Pool as a critical rehabilitation facility and an enduring feature of New Zealand physiotherapy history please click here.

Funds required to save Physio Pool from closure

Physio Pool is currently being used by more than 20 community organisations, with more than 40,000 visits a year. Help us save the pool.
Splash Out and Save The Pool