An angry Queenstown gym owner claims her top personal trainer was headhunted to run a rival gym set up by a council quango.
Queenstown Gym owner Sarah Kerby claims Lakes Leisure boss Fiona McKissock poached her personal trainer of four years Richie Heap.
“He said Fiona McKissock approached him and asked him to apply for the job and he did and I believe what Richie told me,” Kerby says. “It’s absolutely outrageous.”
McKissock maintains she didn’t poach Heap for the new Alpine Aqualand health and fitness centre. The job was widely advertised and attracted 39 applicants, she says.
McKissock: “There were various people I approached to put an application in but Richie had already put his in. He likes Lakes Leisure, he wanted to work for Lakes Leisure.”
Heap tells Mountain Scene McKissock didn’t approach him and he wanted to work in the new facility.
Kerby, who says she couldn’t match what LL offered Heap, fears the council-owned rival, due to open at Labour Weekend, will put her out of business. She’s con-cerned Queenstown Lakes District Council allowed its quango to borrow $780,000 for the new gym and complained to Local Government Minister Rodney Hide.
Kerby says she and her partner sold everything to set up their gym four years ago and the new rival at Frankton will put them right on the brink.
“Times are tough, banks wouldn’t lend me $780,000 yet Lakes Leisure gets it. You can’t compete with the council, they have unlimited funding.”
Hide last week told Kerby he couldn’t interfere but offered sympathy.
“Your case is yet another example of ratepayer concern at the activities that councils become involved in, sometimes at the apparent expense of more essential services,” Hide says.
Kerby stresses it’s not sour grapes over losing Heap, who was a contractor, but she queries his ability to run the new gym after doing personal training for four years. “If you were a ratepayer, would you have hired him?”
McKissock, who did a boot camp Heap took, says he has industry experience, the ability to work in an integrated facility – and he understands sports teams, which the gym will target.
Heap has also had more than a year’s management experience in a Swiss gym and could drive membership. “He is a salesperson, he sold himself as a personal trainer all those years.”