Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Gym shut just days after civic opening

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Council opens elders gym at Kulim Park. Photo/John Borren
Council opens elders gym at Kulim Park. Photo/John Borren

Tauranga's first gym for older people has been shut only days after it officially opened in Kulim Park amid safety concerns.

The $26,000 outdoor Elders' gym was designed to help keep older people fit and healthy, and the project was supported by the city's Elder Forum and the Older Persons Activity Forum.

In an email sent this week to Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby and forwarded to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend Matua resident Dorothy Stewart wrote that she was astounded and disappointed council had made such "a hash" of the project.

Read more: Elders' gym opens in Bay for Tauranga seniors

The resident slammed the decision to open the gym with no handrail up to the raised platform and questioned why it had not been erected at ground level.

"As an older person I am amazed at the lack of judgement and wisdom that has spoiled something that we have all been eagerly anticipating for so long," the woman said

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the gym had been barricaded up until a ramp and some handrails were added which he expected to take up to two weeks.

The official opening on April 19 had been brought forward to recognise the sponsors' work and unfortunately the gym was opened for public use before it was fully completed, he said.

Mr Crosby put the gym's opening ahead of schedule down to council staff's enthusiasm.

"People need to calm down and be a little patient for the additional work to be done, which I expect will be completed in 7-10 days."

The council was working with Heritage New Zealand to see if the platform base could be lowered and also lay rubber matting around the gym equipment, but it would need written approval to dig into the ground, he said.

Mr Crosby said the residents criticisms were "a bit over the top" and council staff were working to put things right and once completed the gym would be opened for everyone's use.

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Seniors United to Promote Age-Friendly New Zealand (Supa-NZ) promoted the installation of the gym and worked hard to fundraise for it.

Supa-NZ national convenor Carole Gordon said adding the extra safety features were likely to make the gym less useful as there would be no room to work around the equipment.

The council should have negotiated with Heritage New Zealand and consulted with Supa-NZ before starting construction, and opening the gym for public use, she said.

"Supa-NZ expects Tauranga City Council to create a gym with the most optimum facilities, that includes taking the platform down and installing it on the ground with appropriate rubber safety footing.

"It will cost more and take some time but taking it down is the right outcome."

Matua resident Mrs Stewart agreed with this because "as it is, the gym is a danger to people, and someone using it could break their hip".

Mrs Gordon said other sporting codes invested in installing safety-approved rubber footing surfaces around their gym equipment.

"It's most shameful that Tauranga's most vulnerable older people were given woodchips."

Mrs Gordon said if Heritage New Zealand did not give approval to lower the platform, then council should consider relocating the gym elsewhere.

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