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Happy Kiwis Means Happy Communities

For release 1 March 2012

Happy Kiwis Means Happy Communities

According to a February 2012 survey released by NZ-based UMR Research, one way to ensure more happiness in your life is to increase your physical activity. While most Kiwis would admit that they feel better when they are more active, NZ Recreation Association (NZRA) takes this premise a step further in stating that physically active people are also healthy people, a fact that in turn has a trickle-down effect on the economy, creating a stronger more vibrant community.

For the past 20 years, NZRA has been promoting the benefits of recreation on communities as a whole through its work as a recreation advocacy organisation. Andrew Leslie, NZRA's Chief Executive, comments, "NZRA believes that recreation is vital to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. We are committed to leading a strong and cohesive recreation sector while supporting community enjoyment of parks, pools, facilities and community environments. This latest UMR research justifies our work as an organisation that advocates the importance of recreation to our health as a nation. But to go even further, we would argue that when communities of people are more active, not only are they happier, they are healthier, both physically and economically."

In speaking with a group at a Local Government (LG) zone meeting in Christchurch this week, Leslie reminded those present that their investment in recreation and sport is a powerful mechanism for delivering on the responsibilities set out within the LG Act. The LG Act states that the purpose of LG is to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities. The Act refers to core services including the provision of libraries, museums, reserves, recreational facilities, and other community infrastructure.

“In this way,” Leslie emphasised, “local government is also a primary influencer on the happiness and health of a community in New Zealand.” He feels strongly about the importance of articulating the wider social benefits of recreation, in order to ensure that there is an understanding at a political level of why investment in the recreation sector is so vital.

NZRA does just that by providing education and training, standards and benchmarking, as well as a number of professional services to those working within the recreation industry. Their upcoming Coastal Recreation Conference in Tauranga on 2-3 April 2012 will address a wide range of issues related to planning, recreation, and conservation on our coastal lands. Submissions have just opened for their annual Thinking Recreation! seminar, the seminar for recreation planners and policy makers, which will take place in July in Queenstown. And the 2012 NZRA National Conference has been confirmed to take place in November in Auckland with a focus on embracing diversity within recreation.

Leslie draws a comparison with Bhutan, a country of 710,000 wedged between India and Tibet. Their biggest export earner is tourism. But he finds it interesting how they measure their success. Not through GDP as we do in NZ, but through GNH or Gross National Happiness.

“The economy is of course an important factor in their collective happiness,” Leslie comments, “but their view on what is important in this world is far more holistic than Gross Domestic Product. Of equal importance in the equation are psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity, and living standards. Perhaps something to aspire to here in NZ where we have a head start it would seem as we already realise that our wellbeing as a nation is intricately related to our levels of physical activity.”

Media Release Ends…

New Zealand Recreation Association is a not for profit industry member organisation committed to promoting recreation and providing professional services to the recreation sector.

NZRA represents professionals who work with public swimming pools, parks and open spaces, recreation facilities and recreation programmes. We believe recreation is vital to the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

© Scoop Media

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