The Tauranga Men’s Shed may have to “give away the tools, and walk out the door” if a proposed rent increase goes ahead.
Tauranga City Council is looking at increasing the shed’s rent from $13,000 to $44,840.
The shed would also be charged $18,400 in operating expenses by the council, said Tauranga Men’s Shed chairman Bryce Strong.
“We can’t afford it, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Nestled in The Historic Village, the shed is full of tools, machinery and wood, with a small retail store selling wooden toys and homewares.
This isn’t the first rent hike the organisation has faced. In 2021 their licence to occupy went from $7492 to $27,986 per year, staged over two years.
Strong said they were able to afford this year’s fees but won’t be able to pay the next amount due.
“If the commissioners decide to go ahead and implement what the council recommended, we will have to close.”
Strong said they had two alternatives to closing: the council finding them another more affordable location or a private landlord allowing them a space with low rent.
“If either of those things don’t happen, we can’t pay commercial rent. We will close, we’ll just have to give away all the tools to other sheds and burn all the timber and walk out the door.”
The shed has 80 members who pay a $20 yearly membership fee.
Strong said even if they increased this to $600 a year, it wouldn’t be enough to cover the proposed costs and he would lose all the members.
“Even if you said $100, I think I’d lose… a lot of them [members] as well, because they’re all retired and on fixed incomes.”
Tauranga City Council’s attitude towards the Men’s Shed was “such a contrast” to other councils, said Strong.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council was “really supportive” of the Men’s Sheds in its district and the Masterton District Council gave a Men’s Shed reserve land and helped them fundraise for a building, he said.
Strong said the shed didn’t just help men connect and give them something to do — it also helped the community.
Members built and donated two brachiation ladders for the Brain Injured Children’s Trust that helped a six-year-old girl to walk within three months of her injury.
“If you take away all these community organisations, what have you got left?
“If you destroy the ground roots of the community you end up with a pretty sterile existence.”
Jock Speedy is at the shed most days, he hopes they would relocate rather than close.
“There’s a camaraderie here. It gives me a real lift being with other people but also I really like building things.”
The camaraderie was obvious as the men joked and laughed during Local Democracy Reporting’s recent visit.
A member for 11 years, Mike Bailie also enjoys the company and being able to complete community projects.
“What the council don’t seem to realise is that we aren’t going to be able to do that sort of thing anymore. All that goodwill in the community is just gone.”
Council venues and events manager Nelita Byrne said the fee structure was proposed as part of the draft 2024-34 Long-term Plan (LTP) and everyone had a chance to provide feedback on it.
“The proposed structure aims to offer fairness across the wider Tauranga community, by reducing required rates funding and moving closer to a ‘user pays’ model.”
The potential loss of any organisation that contributed to community well-being was a concern and would be considered by commissioners as part of the LTP decision-making process, said Byrne.
“We recognise the valuable contribution The Men’s Shed — and other community organisations located at The Historic Village — make to our community and we are committed to working with them to ensure their financial sustainability is maintained.”
LDR asked Byrne to confirm the proposed rent increase, but she said she was unable to because of privacy and commercial sensitivity reasons.
By Alisha Evans, Local Democracy Reporter
Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air