Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc.
The backyard pool is the ultimate Aussie playground; a private oasis for fitness and relaxation, and a focal point for family leisure time. Many of these backyard pools are made by Aquatic Leisure Technologies (ALT), Australia’s largest swimming pool manufacturer.
Producing under the brands Aqua Technics, Buccaneer Swimming Pools, Sapphire Pools, Palm City Pools, Quantum Composite Pools, Round Pools Australia and Riverina Pools, the group also includes Eleven Finance, Jadan Landscapes, Jadan Pool Renovations and Leeder Tanks, ALT was founded as Aqua Technics in 1976. Lew Beale joined the business in 1978 as a supervisor and soon became the owner and inventor of many technologies. ALT has made and installed over 61,000 pools, just over 60 per cent of which leaves WA for either the eastern states or overseas.
At the helm of this extraordinary company is Lynley Papineau. While Lynley describes herself as “focussed and results orientated,” others call her a powerhouse.
Graduating from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Commerce (double major in Marketing and Public Relations), Lynley officially joined the family business of Aquatic Leisure Technologies Pty Ltd in 1994. Like most children who grow up in small business families, Lynley spent many school holidays helping out in the office and factory. After graduating, she started out in purchasing and stock control and moved successively into other areas of the business, from marketing and quality control, auditing manufacture, through to installation, sales and administration. “These roles helped build a solid foundation to understand how the business operated, and more importantly I got to know the people who I worked alongside. Walking through the factory is still one of the highlights of my day,” advised Lynley.
As a family company, ALT counts family values as the core of its identity and value system. “The ALT workforce is one of the company’s greatest accomplishments. We care about them and their families, many of whom have been with us for up to 33 years. We have many second-generation staff members and it is great to see them work along-side their parents. Values have to be practiced, otherwise you lose them. We worked out that our management team has a total of 192 years of business experience and almost 50% of our senior management team are women.”
The WA economy is intrinsically linked to the fortunes of commodity prices and mining exports, as well as the overall Australian economy. Over the 45 years that ALT has been in business, both these economies have seen the gamut of economic conditions. “I’m proud of navigating the company through the commodity price boom and the subsequent soft market forcing us to consolidate and temper expansion strategies. While we can’t control the economy, we can choose how we react and manage our way through, while at the same time looking for ways to do things better,” says Lynley.
Lynley advises that shocks to the economy can also be transformative. “Developing offshore and interstate markets is one of our future-proofing strategies that my brother Ben initiated a number of years ago and I was able to grow further. We are now a truly global company with a presence in the UK, Europe, North America, New Zealand and Reunion Island.”
“The last two years have reinforced our commitment to evolving ALT through continuous improvement and pioneering advancement in materials. Bringing graphene technology to market after years of extensive R&D with First Graphene, the WA based supplier and developer of highperforming graphene products, is one of our stepchange achievements. Graphene Nano-Tech is now incorporated into the structure of our pools, creating a totally new patent-pending construction process that is 30 per cent lighter and 30 per cent stronger than traditional fibreglass pool technology.” says Lynley.
Lynley also recognises that ALT operates as part of a larger industrial community. She is an active member and a board director of several industry bodies, in many cases originally as the only woman. In 2000, Lynley was elected as the first female president of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Western Australia (SPASA WA), serving as SPASA WA President again from 2012-2014. She also joined the national body SPASA Australia as a Director in 2013 and was Chair of the Board from 2014-2018, stewarding transformative mergers with other state bodies. In 2017, Lynley joined The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia Ltd (CCIWA) Manufacturing Forum and in November 2021 was invited on CCIWA General Council to participate in providing policy recommendations and industry feedback.
She has also represented the industry at a local, state and federal government level including appointments with the WA Building Commission – Building Act Working Committee and involvement in reviewing various Australian Standards. Most recently Lynley was a member of the PL-41 Committee that reviewed the Australian Standards AS1838 & AS1839 for fibreglass swimming pool manufacture and installation which had not been reviewed since 1994.
Lynley’s achievements go further than managing a large vertical manufacturing and distribution company. She won the 2001 National Telstra Business Woman of the Year Award – Private Sector and was awarded a Centenary Medal by the Commonwealth of Australia in 2000, acknowledging her contribution to business. At a personal level, Lynley is equally proud of her husband of 27 years and two children, and her ability to juggle a busy family life with an even busier professional one. “Working in your own family business allows you flexibility which was important for me to still be an active part of the kids school life. My husband is my biggest supporter and between the two of us we made it work.”
ALT is WA’s most awarded swimming pool company, winning a phenomenal 240 awards over the past 46 years. It was the first pool company in WA to win a Telstra Small Business Award and since then has added a plethora of others to the trophy cabinet.
Australia now has the highest rate of pools per capita in the world. In Brisbane, Perth and regional Queensland almost one in five homes has its own backyard pool. Of the estimated 30,000 new in-ground pools to be built this year across Australia, 65 to 70% are made of fibreglass, an increase from 5 percent during the 1980s when concrete and/or vinyl liner were the materials of choice.
Competition drove innovation in pool shapes and finishes. Maintaining and growing market share necessitated investment in pool shell technology and material inputs for unique pool finishes and advanced colours. Manufacturing, marketing, franchising, installation and servicing networks were developed in parallel. Australian fibreglass pools and spas are now the most technologically advanced in the world with competitors driving each other for new product improvements.
In addition to large purpose-built factories, Australian pool manufacturers have built a sophisticated network of well trained builders and solid dealer networks. Developed to fortify the domestic market, this comprehensive system is now termed “the Australian model.” A model that is both exportable and attractive to offshore interests, particularly to North America where the market for Australian designed and made pools has been growing steadily for some years.