Outspoken merger fan banned by gym

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 12:00 11/03/2014
Ray Ditchfield
MURRAY WILSON/Fairfax NZ
OUT ON HIS EAR: Ray Ditchfield.

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One of the most fervent supporters of the attempted Club Palmerston merger has been banned from Squash Gym Palmerston North.

Squash Gym and the Palmerston North Bowling and Cosmopolitan Clubs all use the same Linton St complex, and were supposed to have merged as far back as 2005.

But the merger never happened and a clear divide formed between the Cosmopolitan Club on one side and the sports clubs on the other.

A settlement, which is due to be finalised some time this year, was reached between the three back in October.

Ray Ditchfield formed a "concerned members group" to voice disapproval about the costly stoush and since the settlement, has continued to speak earnestly at meetings and write letters regarding the merger plan.

His actions, which include alleged "divisive and derogatory" comments towards the president of the Squash Gym, Lindsay Petterson, resulted in his gym membership not being renewed on February 28.

When Mr Ditchfield turned up on the day his membership expired, he says, he was told by a member of the committee that he was allowed to use the facilities and therefore continued to do so "fairly regularly".

On Friday Mr Ditchfield received a notice from the gym saying he had been "trespassed".

Squash Gym spokesman David Petterson said the club had every right to not renew Mr Ditchfield's membership.

"He is very passionate and he started accusing the committee of lying to members. He was told to tone it down a bit but he accelerated it.

"It got to a point where the gym decided ‘we don't want you as a member' and that is their right as a gym."

Mr Petterson said Mr Ditchfield's view was his alone.

"He is not just the only one in the wilderness, it's a massive wilderness he has gone into.

"The Squash Club have had enough."

His refusal to stop using the facilities had resulted in his exclusion.

Mr Ditchfield said he felt he was being gagged because he disagreed with the settlement and the way it had been reached.

"Since the settlement the ill-feeling between the clubs, I believe, has increased.

"It's a matter of principle for me. I think the idea of a single club is a good concept and I will keep speaking out until the rest of the clubs start to follow.

"Unfortunately, someone has to put their head on the block and I'm it.

"If only other people would say what they think as well."

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- Manawatu Standard

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