Men's Shed gains traction

Momentum is building for a Men's Shed in North Taranaki as its organisers vie for a million-dollar piece of land where the old Waiwaka Bowling Club sat.

Men's Shed is seeking the land, owned by the New Plymouth District Council, for its purpose-made building where men can work on community projects while socialising.

It is a concept that has taken off around the country and in Australia.

As well as serving the community the shed could become a forum for discussion of issues and, most of all, it will be a place where men can be men.

Although there is definitely merit in the idea, particularly because of the aging population, a question has been raised because organisers want public land; isn't it a bit sexist?

Men's Shed spokesman Barry Marsh was quick to pooh-pooh the question.

"Of course it's not sexist. Just because women don't go it doesn't mean it's sexist. It's a place for men," he says. "There's a lot of men out there that are isolated at home. They don't belong to other clubs. They need somewhere to go."

But Councillor Heather Dodunski disagrees. "I was certainly surprised and disappointed with the comments that women were excluded," she says.

"And (I) thought that it was rather sad that in today's world, where this attitude is just no longer acceptable, that we had a group with that philosophy asking for council's support."

Councillor Lance Girling-Butcher also expressed concerns over women being excluded but said a Men's Shed was needed.

It's a far bigger issue than it appears on the surface, he says.

"I do think personally that they are a very important thing for those people who aren't prepared for retirement. It gives them something to do. It gets them out from under their wives' feet and it does give them that social interaction."

"But there is that sexist element to it that worried me slightly. I don't know what the alternative would be for women really."

Human Right's Commission spokesman Gilbert Wong shed some light on the subject saying that excluding women from the Men's Shed was not sexist.

He explains clubs are an exception to the anti-discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act.

"The Men's Shed project is like any club and clubs are able to set their own membership criteria. The commission welcomes initiatives that help to build stronger community links."

This being said Mr Wong says the commission advocates for an open and common sense approach and tolerance is the best way to respond to community issues.

Mr Marsh did say that the question of the involvement of women had been on many people's lips since the idea of a Men's Shed began circulating.

He said the best way for women to have a role in the shed was to understand that there is a need for men to be with men.

The land the Men's Shed is after is hotly sought after because the YMCA wants an early childhood centre to be built there.

The topic of what organisation, if any, will get the land will be discussed at the council's April 24 meeting.

Taranaki Daily News