SHUT OUT: Gym users Hassell Burcher, Mark Henry, John Groves, Frank Finch, Kevin Ibbetson, Bruce McKenzie, Tim Burgess and Emmsaline Clark are unhappy the Kyogle community gym is going up for sale.
SHUT OUT: Gym users Hassell Burcher, Mark Henry, John Groves, Frank Finch, Kevin Ibbetson, Bruce McKenzie, Tim Burgess and Emmsaline Clark are unhappy the Kyogle community gym is going up for sale. Doug Eaton

Anger at moves to sell Kyogle's community-owned gym

MEMBERS of a popular community gym in Kyogle that was funded by a Commonwealth grant are angry about being shut out of the proposed sale of the facility by local non-profit group Kyogle Together.

The Kyogle Community Gym was opened by former Page MP Janelle Saffin in mid-2011 following a federal funding agreement from the Department of Health and Ageing, Active Kyogle, which expired in June.

It catered to locals who could not ordinarily afford to visit commercial gyms on a regular basis, including classes for RSL members and senior citizens.

More than a quarter of the 2500 residents of Kyogle have signed up since it opened.

Kyogle Together held a public meeting with the community on December 12 to announce the sale after advertising for expressions of interest on November 30, which close on January 10. Kyogle councillor Chris Simpson said the sale announcement had been sprung on locals without giving them time to coalesce fundraising efforts.

"The first (we) knew about it is Kyogle Together called this meeting and said 'we're selling it'," Cr Simpson said.

"(We) basically didn't have a chance to fundraise or have any input into it.

"It's created a fair bit of anxiety in the local community.

"We've got a community asset that's being sold off and the person who buys it could take it away."

Mr Simpson said he was disappointed that "proper constraints" were not put on Kyogle Together when they originally received funding for the gym.

"Why should the community have to buy an asset that's already been funded for the community?" he said.

Kyogle Together chairman Eric Kaiser said Kyogle Together had fully met the requirements of the (now expired) funding agreement, but the gym was not sustainable without continued external funding or support.

"It could but it needs restructure," Mr Kaiser said. "It needs an expansion of services, gym fees would need to go up considerably, (and) we're not in a position to do that.

"The funding climate for community initiatives is very lean and the prospect of us getting further support is very slim.

"It's a facility that's outlived the grant, which is a major success, but I think we've got to move it on into a private enterprise so that it can prosper.

"We want to ensure the continuity of the service and hopefully the staff can be retained in the new enterprise as much as possible."

Community Gym led to huge improvements in health

PRESIDENT of the Kyogle RSL Bruce McKenzie has lost 20kg since starting classes at the gym and hasn't visited the physiotherapist for his chronic back problem since.

"It's made a hell of a difference to my life," he said.

"It is a social thing as well."

Another veteran, Mark Henry, has lost an estimated 30kg since 2011 and said it had "saved my life".

"I reckon it's keeping me alive," Mr Henry said.

Kyogle physiotherapist Robyn Simpson said she had seen a huge improvement in the health and well-being of those who attended the gym, particularly in terms of lifestyle-related health issues.

Other health professional in the area, including local GPs, agreed.

"It seems a bit of a farce to me to have the community buy something back that was given to the community in the first place," Ms Simpson told The Northern Star.

"There's been a complete lack of transparency."



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