Personal trainers and other sole traders or small businesses that use public space such as parks to carry out business may have to pay significant fees to lawfully continue this practice. The City of Yarra proposal to enforce this has been condemned by Social Party candidate Steve Jolly and by a variety of other people, from doctors concerned about tackling obesity to local residents concerned about how the proposal may reduce their use of their favourite parks during their exercise programs. I can’t tell you what the rest of the Council think because they have not made their views public, apart from Mayor Judy Morton who defends the plan.

Yarra Council has not made it clear why this is necessary. It provides some ideas in its proposal but does not justify the $1000 per six month fee mentioned in its own fact sheet (175kb PDF). There may well be public liability insurance issues (trainers must have their own insurance) – see the draft personal training policy (24kb PDF) – and other legal complexities that the Council must manage, but the potential cost to trainers and consequently their clients seems unfair and unnecessary. The Council should explain the costings and provide transparency about the process.

Whereas in the past people may have joined social or sporting clubs (which are exempt from the policy) to get exercise, many today use a personal trainer individually or in small groups because this is more flexible and convenient to schedule into their busy lives. They pay for the convenience, but should not have to pay extra for access to the local facilities they already paid for with their rates.

Trainers do benefit from using public facilities, but I would like to see some kind of analysis of what impact their activities actually have on parks and the public. Has anyone turned up at their local park to play with their kids or to have a picnic and found it full of trainers and their clients? It’s never happened to me. It seems licensing and some payment is necessary, but it should be a reasonable fee, not the enormous fee being suggested by the Yarra Council.

To me, the issue is less about forcing small business operators like personal trainers to pay to use public facilities, and more about how busy inner-city residents live their lives and try to manage their work / life balance. Hiring a trainer is for many people no different to hiring a tutor for their kids or taking their car to a car wash rather than washing it themselves – some professional assistance provides a better result and makes their lives a little bit easier. The Council’s actions seem to suggest that they do not understand how many of their constituents live their lives.

City of Yarra elections – personal trainers and privatising public space

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