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Mallard: Sport Waitakere Regional Sports Forum

Trevor Mallard's Address To The Sport Waitakere Regional Sports Forum


Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

It would be fair to say that within the Presidency of the Labour Party there is a certain bias towards Waitakere City. Which is why just about every Labour MP knows that Waitakere City is demographically the youngest in the country.

Such a statistic implies to me the need for an organisation such as Sport Waitakere.

The Government is certainly keen to support initiatives that will lift participation in sport and physical activity among young people and give them the tools to keep that participation up throughout the rest of their lives.

I understand that this is the first of three sessions which will focus on sport development in Waitakere City and at the end of it, you plan to make a submission to the Government's review on sport fitness and leisure.

It is certainly pleasing to know that organisations like yours are taking the review this seriously before we even announce all its details. I have great admiration for forward planning like this.

I hope that by the end of this session you will have a greater understanding of what the Government's objectives are for the review and that my speech today will serve as a springboard for ideas over the coming weeks.

First, let's go into why government even has an involvement in sport. Funding sport doesn’t spring to mind as a core government responsibility when looking at the state of the nation.

Indeed, government does not own sport.

But the benefits that flow from a nation committed to sport and physical activity are numerous. The benefits that flow from the pride we experience when our national sporting heroes perform well are also significant.

As such, government has a role in helping to facilitate a strong and vibrant sport sector.

I'll go over some of those benefits.

Firstly the improved health benefits. Involvement in sports and active leisure programmes contributes to healthier life styles, and therefore to improved health. As a Government, we have a vested interest in increasing participation in sport and fitness activities. The health benefits are particularly critical with latest reports showing that one of the causal factors in 6 out of 10 biggest killers in New Zealand was a lack of physical activity. Research reports estimate that a 10% increase in the number of people who are active would return health cost savings of at least $55 million per year. These are certainly figures that I will use when I argue for funding for sport around the Cabinet table.

But the national pride that success in sport can create is also an important benefit. I think we've seen plenty of evidence over recent years of the huge amounts of pride that New Zealanders do feel when our national or regional sporting representatives perform well. We've experienced the bitter disappointment at poor performances. I think I would like to work towards a point where we do win more, but we accept our losses more graciously.

The Olympic Games is the next test for this. I think success at Sydney will come with a mixture of medals, personal bests, and improved performances.

But the Government has looked beyond September in the high performance sport area. We announced a few weeks ago that we would give $16 million for high performance sport for the next four-year Olympic cycle. The interest from the $16 million will also be added to the total.

Most of it will be targeted towards the three high performance sport centres including an Auckland-based centre for the greater Auckland region. I hope that part of the process you are going for at the moment will include identifying how you can take advantage and gain access for the services that will be available through the centre.

I think the 'streamlining' of high performance sport services will add some much needed efficiency to the sector. Add that to the extra money and the certainty, we estimate that we will be able to increase the number of athletes who can access these services from about 650 to 1500.

Another benefit that justifies government involvement in sport is increasing employment opportunities. The sport and leisure sector is labour intensive. As a result, they are an effective way of generating employment.

The wider social benefits from sport and physical activity are very intangible but include improving the social responsibility of individual citizens; reducing crime and anti-social behaviour; and uniting people from different walks of life for a common purpose.

I see my sport portfolio responsibilities as playing a part in the Government's wider policy objective of closing the social and economic gaps between Maori and Pacific people and other New Zealanders.

So with all these benefits, the Government has narrowed down our policy objectives in this area to increasing participation in all levels of sport and physical activity and supporting excellence.

Within the participation aim, we need to examine where the barriers to participation are and what we can do to counteract some of the drop out points – like when young people leave school, start work, or get married.

I think programmes run through Sport Waitakere like StreetSports and the 35+ programme show that you are also thinking about those barriers to participation and how to overcome them.

These are issues that the review into sport will examine.

I will be announcing final details within a few weeks and the review will start next month.

A review group will be appointed comprising 6-7 people with project management, research and administrative support. The group will convene several regional consultation forums and call for submissions.

I will be expecting a report by mid-December that will include:

 a defined vision for sport, fitness & leisure for the next 25 years;
 a policy framework for government involvement in sport, fitness & leisure initiatives;
 clearly defined structural framework to support government commitments and objectives;
 implementation strategies which include resource strategies

Cabinet will subsequently consider any such report in February 2001 for policy adoption and appropriate resource allocations.

I hope that you have found this session useful for making your submission.

I'd like to finish by saying a few words about Regional Sports Trusts.

I like the concept and general thrust of RSTs. There is consistency to ensure resources are not wasted – especially human resources and the many hours of time you put into making a good idea work. You can share ideas; discuss programmes that work well and why they have worked well; learn from each other's mistakes.

At the same time, you have enough local autonomy to develop practices that work best for your regions; to tap into local resources; and to meet community expectations.

Thank you.

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