Access for everyone?

fberg

by Lindsay Shelton
I’ve been talking with a Wellington couple who argue, convincingly, that city council facilities should be kept available for all citizens, without preference being given to a few. Their personal experience backs up their concern.

Roland and Sally Agar have for years done weekend yoga classes in the activity room at the Freyberg Pool. But they didn’t want to become members of the pool’s Club Active, as yoga was the only activity that drew them to the Freyberg.

“For the first couple of years, all was well,” they tell me. “There was no problem with paying week by week. But then, as our yoga teacher became more popular and wellknown, Club Active members were given preference to book for his classes.

“We tried several other teachers at Freyberg in the early years but found most were not qualified or as accomplished. As older yoga participants, we were not prepared to risk injury by following instruction from a sports instructor who was not properly qualified as a yoga teacher.

“Our teacher’s growing popularity – he had ten years’ experience teaching yoga in London, before returning home – started to result in his classes being listed as ‘fully booked’ by members, but we found that generally there were no shows so we could continue with our regular weekly yoga.

“Then the system changed again. Members were allowed to book two days before any class but non members were not allowed to book till the day. And if classes were shown as full, a waiting list for non-members wasn’t allowed. More recently, members could book up to a week ahead.”

Things came to a climax when the couple turned up for a class that was listed as full, and saw there were unfilled spaces. So they went in to the class. A Freyberg staff member challenged them, saying they hadn’t checked in. They told him a checkin wasn’t possible because of the system that showed the class was full. As the class began, a second staff member approached them, interrupting the class. “You haven’t checked in and you haven’t paid,” he said. He told them they had to leave.

“It was unprofessional, humiliating and inappropriate.” says Sally. “I showed him my bank statement on my Smartphone to prove that we had paid. After some discussion, he reimbursed me for the payment.”

The couple decided they didn’t want to return to the Freyberg, after having been accused of dishonesty in front of their fellow yoga students. They did however want an apology. At first it was refused. But after some negotiations, an apology was given, in front of the class, and the fact that the couple had paid for the class was stated.

“The big issue,” say Sally and Roland, “is that an iconic city asset is giving priority to those who can afford to pay membership fees.

“We would understand if it was a private club. But this is a city-owned facility, subsidised by ratepayers. Everyone should have the same access, without preference being given to people who can afford to pay the high membership fees.

“It seems that for us to get into our yoga classes we would have no choice but to pay for a Club Active membership, in order to have the same access to the priority booking system that members enjoy. This does not seem fair or appropriate since the activity room at Freyberg is a ratepayer funded asset belonging to the city and to which we should have equal right of access.”

Since the incident, the couple’s yoga teacher has also left the Freyberg Pool. He had become upset about public access to his classes being restricted. “The effect was striking; overnight the only people who were coming to my classes (and other classes) were members, those who could afford $1000 per year….It was a tipping point for me when management walked into one of my classes and accused two non-member participants of not paying.

“I have taught for many local authority facilities where they offer membership options for combined use of the pool, class and gym,, but Freyberg is the only publicly owned facility that I know of that has separated its use and given preferential access to members while excluding the public.”

The teacher – who says he got to know many of his participants well and really enjoyed his weekend classes – continues to teach yoga at non-council venues in the city.

 

4 comments:

  1. Ian Apperley, 15. May 2017, 15:45

    A little digging will find that Club Active is in some deep do do. Apparently that toxic culture has spread… New management?

     
  2. Former Club Active member, 17. May 2017, 14:23

    I ceased my membership a couple of years ago due to poor management and high fees. I’ve since joined another gym and recognise a few old Club Active members there also.

     
  3. Interested observer, 19. May 2017, 15:33

    I’m from out of town but have had conversations with several people holding similar concerns based on their experiences and observations.

     
  4. Henry Filth, 21. May 2017, 0:18

    The New Zealand management style at its finest.

     

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