Swimmers urged to be kind amid reports of customer staff abuse

Recreation Aotearoa and recreation facility operators around the country are urging people to heed the Government’s ‘be kind’ messaging during Alert Level restrictions.

Recreation Aotearoa are aware of reports of personnel facing abuse from customers in recreation facilities, particularly at swimming pools.

With current Alert Level restrictions, facilities have implemented contact tracing, physical distancing, and, where required, number restrictions. These rules mean that facilities are not operating at normal capacity and some activities cannot take place.

Recreation Aotearoa Aquatics Programme Manager, Tracey Prince-Puketapu said: “We appreciate the frustration brought about by the Delta Alert Level 2 restrictions. Staff at aquatic and recreation centres around the country are experiencing that frustration too and would prefer to have the facilities open as usual.”

Frontline staff, including lifeguards, receptionists and fitness centre staff have experienced a huge amount of criticism at a time when we’re all being urged to ‘be kind’. This has included cases of extreme verbal abuse.

Whakatane District Council Aquatics and Recreation Manager, Andrew Smith said: “The frontline team are the ones who are getting the brunt of the complaints and abuse, this is not fair as they are just doing their job of keeping the community active and safe. The easier option would have been to stay closed, but the team enjoy what they do in making a difference to people’s lives in the community.”

Facilities have been proactive in updating their customers on how they are currently operating. Every facility will operate differently depending on their design and size.

Rowan Foley, Christchurch City Council Aquatics Manager, said: “We do our best to use the space within the facilities efficiently, but customer frustration is increasing and is being taken out on our frontline team in the form of rudeness, aggressiveness, or abuse. When that happens it’s unfair on our team and negatively impacts their well-being. Who wants to come to work and be spoken to rudely or abused every day? It’s a big concern for us.”

With summer around corner, more recreation spaces, such as outdoor pools, will be resuming operation. These facilities are places where the community can relax, recuperate, and recreate and it is vital that they remain safe places for customers and staff alike. Be patient and understanding as we all adhere to the new normal.

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