New gym named for a spe­cial man

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Peter de Graaf

A new work-out gym at North­land Col­lege has been named af­ter a Kaikohe man who has ded­i­cated more than four decades of his life to help­ing Mid North youth through sport.

The James Lawrence (Jim­bob) Strength and Conditioni­ng Gym in­cludes weights, benches, ex­er­cy­cles, 10 state-ofthe-art exercise machines and other equip­ment.

Speaker af­ter speaker at the open­ing cer­e­mony praised Mr Lawrence’s commitment, prac­ti­cal skills and bot­tom­less sport­ing knowl­edge.

Bill Parangi re­called the first piece of ad­vice he was given as a new parent at the school, look­ing to get in­volved in kids’ ac­tiv­i­ties: “If you want to know any­thing about sport, just ask Jim­bob”.

“When I met him I thought he was a grumpy old bug­ger, but that’s just his ex­te­rior. You find out his heart is big­ger than his body,” he said.

Mr Parangi, now the head of guid­ance at Kaitaia Col­lege, said if he be­came half the man Mr Lawrence was he would have achieved a great deal.

Mr Lawrence joined North­land Col­lege in 1975, and was head of PE un­til 2016. He was also in­volved af­ter-hours in al­most every code at the Lind­vart Park sports com­plex, in­clud­ing net­ball, soccer, bas­ket­ball, vol­ley­ball and softball.

For decades he marked out the town’s sports fields and was the pool care­taker. The new work­out gym has been named af­ter long-time PE teacher James (Jim­bob) Lawrence.

Now, about to turn 74, he has stepped back from many of his vol­un­teer roles, but is still in­volved in soccer, and still works as the col­lege sports co­or­di­na­tor, with no plans of re­tir­ing.

“This keeps me go­ing,” he said, al­though he was al­most lost for words af­ter the trib­utes paid to him dur­ing the gym open­ing cer­e­mony.

“I’m a hum­ble per­son, I just did it as my job . . . If you can get kids in­volved in sport, hope­fully you can keep them out of trou­ble and put them on a ca­reer path­way,” he said.

Past stu­dents who had suc­ceeded on a world stage included Taal Smith (NZ softball rep), Ch­eryl Waaka (dou­ble World Cup-win­ning Black Fern) and Danielle Smith (world cham­pion boxer).

Mean­while the gym equip­ment was funded by prof­its from the school farm, which has 500ha in dairy, forestry and ma¯nuka for honey. Com­mit­tee mem­ber Suzanne Brocx said the farm made $40,000 in 2018, the first time it had returned a profit in years, and the gym was just one of sev­eral projects that would ben­e­fit.

“The school can’t nec­es­sar­ily afford things like the gym, so to be able to give back to the col­lege is awe­some,” she said.

Other speak­ers at the open­ing included head boy Ad­dal­i­cent Croft-Haenga, head girl Ruahine Kea, new prin­ci­pal John Ken­dal, board of trustees chair Kelly Yakas, for­mer prin­ci­pal Jim Peters, and kauma¯tua.


Head boy Ad­dal­i­cent Croft-Haenga try­ing out the equip­ment.

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