A new workout gym at Northland College has been named after a Kaikohe man who has dedicated more than four decades of his life to helping Mid North youth through sport.

The James Lawrence ("Jimbob") Strength and Conditioning Gym includes weights, benches, exercycles, 10 state-of-the-art exercise machines and other equipment.

Speaker after speaker at Friday's opening ceremony praised Lawrence's commitment, practical skills and bottomless sporting knowledge.

Bill Parangi recalled the first piece of advice he was given as a new parent at the school looking to get involved in kids' activities: ''If you want to know anything about sport, just ask Jimbob.'.

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The new workout gym has been named after long-time sports teacher James
The new workout gym has been named after long-time sports teacher James "Jimbob" Lawrence. Photo / Peter de Graaf

''When I met him I thought he was a grumpy old bugger, but that's just his exterior. You find out his heart is bigger than his body.''

Parangi, now the head of guidance at Kaitaia College, said if he became half the man Lawrence was he'd have achieved a great deal.

Lawrence joined Northland College in 1975 and was head of PE until 2016. At the same time he was involved after-hours in almost every code at Lindvart Park sports complex including netball, soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball, to name a few.

For decades he also marked out the town's sports fields and was the pool caretaker.

Head boy Addalicent Croft-Haenga tries out one of the machines in Northland College's new strength gym. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Head boy Addalicent Croft-Haenga tries out one of the machines in Northland College's new strength gym. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Lawrence, who turns 74 next month, has stepped back from many of his volunteer roles but is still involved in soccer and still works at the college's sports co-ordinator, with no plans of retiring.

''This keeps me going,'' he said.

Lawrence was lost for words after the tributes paid to him during the opening ceremony.

''I'm a humble person, I just did it as my job ... If you can get kids involved in sport hopefully you can keep them out of trouble and put them on a career pathway.''

Fifteen-year-old Diarvion Kukutai, from Northland College's Services Academy, tests the chest press in Northland College's new strength gym. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Fifteen-year-old Diarvion Kukutai, from Northland College's Services Academy, tests the chest press in Northland College's new strength gym. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Past students who had succeeded on a world stage included Taal Smith (NZ softball rep), Cheryl Waaka (double World Cup-winning Black Fern) and Danielle Smith (world champion boxer).

The gym equipment was funded by profits from the school farm, which has 500ha in dairy, forestry and mānuka for honey.

Northland College Farm Committee member Suzanne Brocx said the farm made $40,000 in 2018, the first time in years it had returned a profit.

The gym was just one of several projects that would benefit, Brocx said.

''The school can't necessarily afford things like the gym, so to be able to give back to the college is awesome.''

Christina Nieper, 16, tries out the chest press in Northland College's new strength gym. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Christina Nieper, 16, tries out the chest press in Northland College's new strength gym. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Other speakers at the opening included head boy Addalicent Croft-Haenga, head girl Ruahine Kea, new principal John Kendal, Board of Trustees chairwoman Kelly Yakas, former principal Jim Peters, and kaumatua.

Christina Nieper, a member of the college's Services Academy aiming for a Defence Force career, was among those trying out the new equipment afterwards.

The 16-year-old was ''happy and proud'' to see the new gym.

''We're lucky to have this facility, it'll be really good for students who want to get fit,'' she said.

Croft-Haenga, 17, hoped his fellow students would be inspired to use the gym and improve their health and wellbeing.