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Skills Active Aotearoa spotlights a commitment within the Napier fitness community

Skills Active Aotearoa spotlights a commitment within the Napier fitness community
February 11, 2021

Skills Active Aotearoa shares Al van Zonneveld’s commitment to training, learning and helping others within New Zealand’s Napier fitness community.

van Zonneveld's passion for the gym environment led him to becoming a gym-owner himself and furthering his commitment to fitness through obtaining qualifications in exercise through Skills Active. 

van Zonneveld has always been sporty - but his dedication to exercising increased after he had his leg amputated in 2014 at the age of 47. He had had surgery for a club foot in his childhood, and by his 40s his affected leg had developed severe arthritis. His healthcare team suggested getting his foot fused, which he didn’t want to do.  

van Zonneveld explains “as I could no longer do a full day’s work, or play a game of football,  I went and talked to another footballer up in Hamilton who had lost his leg.  

“I saw him, and saw what he was able to do, and after talking to my partner and kids, the decision was made.” 

After the operation, van Zonneveld was determined that he was going to be ‘enabled, rather than disabled’.  

He joined his first gym, Napier’s The Beasthouse however when that gym closed down he switched to The Lab Training Centre, which had the same grass roots and community-centric culture.

When The Lab’s owner Pat O’Brien tragically passed away in 2019, van Zonneveld and a few other like-minded gym members recognised that the loss of the gym’s culture would be a tragedy also – one that could be avoided. They kept the facility open and it’s now called Legacy Gym, as a way of honouring O’Brien.    

van Zonneveld left a 28-year career in the removals industry and now works full-time as the gym manager, opening the doors at 5.45am and closing up at 7pm. He says that just as it was a labour of love for O’Brien, so it is for him.    

As well as operating group fitness classes and a workout space, Legacy also runs outdoor activities, and takes part in events like the Hawkes Bay Hundy relay run. It offers boxing classes for kids and teens, and is getting into training adult amateur boxers too.    

van Zonneveld is quick to credit the others on the Legacy team who help to make the gym what it is.  

“Dallas Peneha, Jacki Houkamau, Logan Mends, Benn Scott, Stacey Loye and even my own son Lukas van Zonneveld; they all offer services from combat training through to fitness classes through to kids’ boxing.”    

After learning a lot from O’Brien’s training as well as helping out in the gym, van Zonneveld  has continued to build on that knowledge, and he completed his New Zealand Certificate in Freestyle Group Exercise (Level 4) in 2020.  

He says it was a bit daunting at first, ‘going back to school’ after many years. Support and encouragement was always available from his assessor Chris McIvor and his Skills Active learning support advisor Chauntelle Brown.  

van Zonneveld adds “what makes me smile is the diverse range of people that we have coming through the doors. We’ve got professionals, solo mums, younger people and older people.  

“It heartens me especially to see families coming in. The kids see their mums and dads working out, everybody gets off the couch and out of the house.  

“And members will come in and tell me how they caught up with each other on the weekend. Some of these people didn’t know each other before, although they live in the same community. It’s awesome to see those new friendships.” 

Skills Active Aotearoa is New Zealand’s industry training organisation for sport, recreation, exercise, and performing arts. For more information go to

Image: Al van Zonneveld training youth

Related Articles

24th January 2021 - Brown Buttabean helps its trainers acquire qualifications through Skills Active Aotearoa

30th November 2020 - Lucas Tofani Souza announced as 2020 Skills Active Apprentice of the Year

9th September 2020 - Skills Active announce two of the finalists for Apprentice of the Year

21st August 2020 - New leadership team announced at Skills Active

16th July 2020 - Skills Active looks back on a year of incredible achievements

18th June 2020 - Skills Active welcomes funding initiative for apprentices

10th June 2020 - Skills Active announces new Chief Operating Officer appointment

15th May 2020 - Skills Active keen to help New Zealanders get back into working and training

17th February 2020 - Skills Active announces recipient of their Exercise Scholarship

16th January 2020 - Skills Active appoints Bentham Ohia as acting chief executive

11th December 2019 - Skills Active Apprentice of the Year winner shares secrets of success

4th December 2019 - Skills Active national event generates energy for positive change

14th August 2019 - Skills Active showcases major client Christchurch City Council

2nd July 2019 - Prime Minister Ardern congratulates Skills Active performing arts graduates

15th May 2019 - Skills Active Aotearoa shares Cardrona Alpine Resort’s workforce development practices

22nd March 2019 - Skills Active Aotearoa launches new qualification entertainment and event technicians

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