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Crunch time for gym seniors

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014
Bernie Vincent
Lauren Priestley
EARLY CONCERN: Bernie Vincent expressed concerns about the management change in February.

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To stay or not to stay.

That is the question senior gym members at the council-owned Glen Innes Pool have been mulling over since the YMCA took over management of the facility on July 1.

The complex was previously run by the company Community Leisure Management (CLM).

The YMCA was adamant its takeover would involve no price increases but members are telling a different story.

Bernie Vincent, 84, has been using the gym there for more than 12 years.

He had concerns in February after hearing rumours about the management change .

The Glendowie man started out paying an annual fee of about $700, which went up to $825 in 2011 and $890 in 2013.

But this year YMCA set the senior rate at $1195, stating it is the recommended retail price.

Vincent has been asked to pay $1075 as a renewing member.

He said older members are now struggling to pay the fee and starting to leave.

Last month, six long-standing members came in to say goodbye, and there are many more going, he said.

"Having about a $50 increase a year was all right but what they're talking about now is way, way, way above that.

"It's a more than 20 per cent hike and it seems it only applies to seniors. But they're still saying there's no increase. How does that work?"

Member Bill Ritchie sent a complaint to the council and the Glen Innes centre manager in July but said he never received a response.

The 80-year-old lives within walking distance of the gym and has used the facility for more than 16 years.

His annual fee was only about $600 when YMCA was last in charge about four years ago, he said.

"It's discrimination. They wanted to ratchet up our price because they thought senior members were getting too big of a discount. But that's their problem - YMCA were the ones to give us that discount.

"They've told us that they won't increase anything but then they turn around and increase it just for a few long-serving retirees. They haven't even given me the courtesy of a reply. The whole thing stinks."

YMCA spokesman Russell Bert said the company is not increasing fees but bringing them in line with recommended retail prices.

Recommended retail prices for membership have been set by YMCA and were based on the pricing structure introduced by CLM, Bert said.

"I can confirm that the price the senior members were being charged was not the retail price.

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"They were being charged an amount less than retail as a result of a legacy pricing issue dating back to over five years ago.

"In summary, YMCA has not increased the retail prices of memberships and we must emphasise that we remain committed to the financial sustainability and viability of Glen Innes Pool."

The company is happy to assess individual requests on a case-by-case basis if customers are suffering from genuine hardship, Bert said.

Requests can be directed to the centre manager.

Maungakiekie Tamaki Local Board chair Simon Randall says the board recommended all five of its council-owned facilities be managed by one company during consultation. The idea was to align services and make access easier for the community, he said.

"One of the key factors for the Glen Innes Pool was having the local community to be able to access it.

"A lot of the time it's people from other suburbs using that facility.

"The board doesn't get involved in things such as fees, that's carried out by the contractors."

Go to ymcaauckland.org.nz and search "Glen Innes" for more information about the pool.

- East And Bays Courier

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