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Pass to pass, please ... Waitaki Community Recreation Centre manager Di Talanoa will be asking to see vaccine passports for those using most areas of the centre. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

One week in, Oamaru’s gyms and recreation centres are still navigating their way through the new traffic light system.

The system came into effect last Friday and, with the South Island at Orange, gyms and recreation centres were able to open fully with My Vaccine Passes and restrictions in place. Masks were no longer required but were recommended by most Oamaru facilities.

Due to the nature of the Waitaki Community Recreation Centre’s facilities, it was working in two different capacities to cater for vaccinated and unvaccinated members.

Manager Di Talanoa said vaccine passports would be enforced in the main gym, foyer, weights rooms and group fitness sessions due to the shared airspace. The back gym could be used for unvaccinated and mixed groups, through prior arrangements, as it had a separate entrance and closed airspace. If there was a demand, classes could be held outside to cater for unvaccinated people.

Sport leagues, including indoor football and basketball, would require vaccination passports.

“If we’re going to do it we need to do it right. There’s no point doing it and saying … ‘We’ll do our best’ – that’s not acceptable in my book because we are inconveniencing some people. We’re turning ourselves inside out really to make this happen,” Mrs Talanoa said.

It had been a “pretty intense” time as the rules differed for each section of the centre.

But Mrs Talanoa was determined to make it work.

“We know how important physical exercise is for the immune system but mentally and emotionally it’s huge.”

The centre had lost its massage clinic, a casual staff member, a volunteer and some members due to the new rules, and saying goodbye was sad, she said.

“It’s not just someone who’s come in to get some exercise, it’s actually people who are part of a real strong community. All the gyms will be the same.”

Snap Fitness Oamaru manager Andrew Allardice said it was tough to cancel memberships for people who had been going to the gym since it opened. Snap had also lost one apprentice personal trainer due to the vaccine pass mandate.

Members’ vaccine passports details were noted on their accounts – a system used at Australian Snap gyms – which was a major advantage, Mr Allardice said.

At Orange, all cardio machines were now available for members to use and personal trainers no longer had to wear masks.

Most members had been considerate towards staff as the changes came into play.

“Everyone’s been real positive towards us because they know it’s not us doing it personally towards them.”

Fitness24 co-owner Mel Lewis said it was a trying time for all businesses. If Fitness24 did not enforce the vaccine pass, it could not open at Orange.

“So our hands were pretty much forced to become [mandated] in order to stay operating at all levels,” Mrs Lewis said.

Under Orange, Fitness24’s sauna and water coolers were back in action and they were waiting for more direction regarding the use of fans.

While Mrs Lewis said she would not argue with health experts, she would have preferred to accommodate all members regardless of their vaccination status.

“Our hygiene and cleaning protocols along with our gym space could have coped with this.”

Movement Hub owner Stacey Pine said the system had been very “divisive”, especially in the wellness community.

“Although we have had to make some tough business decisions, we will continue to treat all people with respect and compassion in the [hope] we can move together again soon,” Mrs Pine said.

The unvaccinated were not allowed at the Harbour St premises but the Movement Hub was increasing its online services including weekly pilates/yoga classes and zoom consultations for exercise physiology, nutrition and personal training to serve the community the “best we can under the circumstances”.

Mrs Pine said the Movement Hub was lucky to have the “world’s best clients” who acknowledged the Movement Hub was doing its best.

“Everyone has been extremely supportive and understanding through this transition no matter what their status is,” she said.