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Trevor Mallard Speech: Sports Clubs Association

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Sport, Fitness and Leisure

Speech to the Sports Clubs Association of New Zealand
Annual General Meeting

Nelson

Friday 10 March 2000

Embargoed until 3.30pm

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Being Minister of Sport sounds like a bit of a dream job. And indeed it was a privilege to be given the honour late last year. It hasn't helped my own sporting prowess though. Despite a new bike and better conditions, I was unable to better my last year's time in the Wellington's recent Karapoti Challenge.

It does, however, give me the opportunity to go to some porting events and call it work. But away from the excitement of those events there is a sector that is badly in need of some fundamental changes to ensure that as a nation we continue to reap the many benefits a healthy sports sector can offer us.

While Government does not 'own' sport in New Zealand, we do have a responsibility for encouraging vision and leadership - and that has been sadly lacking in recent years.

There have been some massive changes in sport over the last decade and we will start a review later this year to ensure that the structure of sport in this country can meet the demands flowing from those changes. I hope to announce details of that review by the end of May and to have a report back by Christmas time.

Our review comes at a time when as an organisation, you are also assessing your future and looking at expanding your membership and role. I see that as a highly complementary coincidence. In many ways our goals and objectives are similar. As a Government, we have a vested interest in increasing participation in sport and fitness activities. There are benefits to employment, counteracting criminal and other anti-social behaviour, and health. The health benefits are particularly critical - latest reports show that one of the causal factors in 6 out of 10 biggest killers in New Zealand was a lack of physical activity. That's a tragic indictment, but it's a statistic that I will use around the Cabinet table to convince my colleagues to consider money for vote:sport a good investment.

You also have an interest in increasing participation in sport - although in your case organised sport is probably more important than just general fitness activities or pay as you go arrangements.

The Hillary Commission's 'Sportville' discussion paper provides us both with some food for thought. I hope that many of you will share your views on this paper with the commission by the end of next month. I hope too, that you see the 'optimistic scenario' in the report as something that is realistic and practical. I certainly see it as having exciting potential.

It's relevant that we are discussing it in Nelson because already the kind of strategic thinking that the 'Sportville' paper talks about is happening in this region. Sport Tasman has begun work with both the Tasman District Council and the Nelson City Council to develop a regional sport policy. I understand that it is looking at issues like a single ground user charges policy and facility development which will benefit a wide range of sport. They are to be applauded. It is this kind of approach that I hope other regions will also follow. There is definite scope for better use of the sporting and recreation facilities available in schools and the wider community. I will be instigating an audit of these facilities with the aim of identifying areas of under-provision, overlap, and opportunities for shared use.

The number of sport, fitness and leisure activities that New Zealanders are interested in is growing rapidly. Yet we are still a small country. If communities are to give their people access to a wide variety of activities, clubs; local authorities; schools; and other institutions need to combine resources. That includes assets as well as human resources. If they do not, the struggle some have to stay afloat, will get worse. A joint approach provides a far greater opportunity to flourish.

And New Zealand is a nation where there is huge potential to flourish in the sporting arena.

The achievements of Team New Zealand show how realising that potential has enormous benefits. I think as a nation we've been bursting with pride over the last week. I retain a hope that Sydney 2000 will provide us with more of those moments, and as a Government we showed an early are commitment to helping our elite athletes star in the international arena.

But as Minister of Sport, I will also feel proud if I can help improve participation in sport and fitness. I want to examine those stages in people's lives when they stop taking part. Like when young people's hormones flow, or they leave school, or get married, or even just change jobs. We must be innovative with solutions on how to keep people motivated about sport and fitness.

Last weekend in Nelson, One thousand 8-13 year olds took part in a Weetbix KiwiKids triathalon. That's a staggering number for a city this size. Wouldn't it be great if in 20 years time there were one thousand 28-33 year-olds taking part in a triathalon - or a similar sporting event.

That's the kind of challenge that we need to set ourselves. Even working towards a goal like that will make us a better nation.

ENDS

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