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NZ Recreation "Look 2000" conference - Mallard

Hon Trevor Mallard
30 October 2000 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:8.30am

New Zealand Recreation "Look 2000" conference
Te Papa

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.

When preparing for this conference I was told that one question that may be in your minds is my perception on what recreation is.

In passing, it sounds like quite an easy question. When I stopped to think about – particularly in my role as the Minister for Sport, Fitness and Leisure – it starts getting complicated.

There's a dictionary meaning – pleasurable exercise or employment.

What that means to individuals could be vastly different.

My current main recreational activity would be mountain biking. I like nothing better than utilising the mountain tracks around Wainuiomata where I live and on the odd occasion I have biked into work.

That's not everyone's cup of tea. A couple of weekends I cycled into Parliament from Upper Hutt down the river track. When I bumped into one of my staff, still in my cycling gear and rather worse for wear following a decent fall, she looked at me like I was mad. This is someone whose idea of recreation is hanging out in a café all weekend.

Part of my job involves involves working closely with some of my colleagues on recreational issues including the Ministers of Conservation, Local Government, and Arts and Culture

In particular, I think the Department of Conservation's contribution to the recreation sector should not be overlooked. The recreation facilities it provides include 1020 huts, 11,200 km of tracks, 2,200 km of roads, 13,000 bridges, boardwalks and other structures, 400 picnic/amenity areas, 310 campsites, and 1,570 toilets.

But I think overall, it would be fair enough to say that the recreation sector has often been overlooked by successive administrations. It is almost as if it has been put in the 'too hard' basket. Some recreational pursuits can be loosely classed as sport or fitness activities; others as art or cultural activities.

As a result, governments' responsibilities to the sector have fallen through the cracks.

But I believe it is important for us to be involved in the sector.

While we hold no 'ownership' over the sector, we do have a responsibility for encouraging vision and leadership.

We have a vested interest in increasing participation in recreational activities. There are benefits to employment, counteracting criminal and other anti-social behaviour, and health. I often talk about the health benefits from increasing participation in physical activity. But when I talk of health I mean more than just physical health – although this is the easiest to measure we know that participation affects peoples mental, social, and physical wellbeing.

The potential economic benefits from a vibrant recreation sector are also huge. Research conducted in 1997 and 1998 for an update on the Hillary Commission’s report The Business of Sport and Leisure – Economic Impacts, suggests that the sport and leisure sector directly contributed $892 to New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 1996. This is 1% of the total GDP. When the indirect effects of the industry are added in, the total economic activity of the sector rises to $1,758 million.

The sport and leisure sector generated 19,200 jobs directly in 1996, Adding in indirect employment raises the total to 31,055 jobs, this is an increase of 26% since 1991.

Over three-quarters of all international visitors take part in at least one sport or active leisure pursuit during their visit.

Last week, the Government released the economic impact report into the 2000 America's Cup Regatta. It showed a net impact to the country of $640 million from that one event. That was a conservative estimate that did not take into account benefits like the huge amount of positive press coverage that we received internationally as a result of hosting the regatta.

I think the ongoing benefits from hosting the cup are going to be really positive for the country and there is a big opportunity for your sector to capitalise on this.

The final benefit I would like to talk about is national identity.

One of the Government's six key goals is to strengthen national identity. We must celebrate our national identity. The recreation sector is an important vehicle to achieving that goal.

Recreation contributes to strengthening communities and nations. Strong communities, where people meet to play to walk, to play sport, to swim, to talk, to socialise are healthier communities with increased civic pride.

So, what are we going to do to support your sector?

Hopefully you all know of the Ministerial Review into Sport, Fitness and Leisure that I set up earlier this year. That review team has been developing a long term vision for the sector to guide this Government's policy direction.

It is expected to identify the necessary strategies to encourage and sustain the interest and participation of New Zealanders in sport, fitness and leisure.

It is examining the adequacy of the current sport, fitness and leisure delivery system and identify the issues and constraints impacting on the sport, fitness and leisure sector.

It is looking at the role of central, regional and local government in the provision of support services and facilities and the impact of user pays on participation in sport, fitness and leisure activities.

It is looking at the promotion of trade and tourism through sport, fitness and leisure.

I'm due to receive the final report by the end of the year. However, I have been having regular meetings with the review team and I am excited by what they are doing.

There has been a really positive input from the recreation sector. I know many of you in this room today have made a contribution to this process. I think it is appropriate here to acknowledge the input of Janet MacKay who as well as being the outgoing President of NZRA is a member of the review group.

Some of the key points that have emerged so far include the:

 Changing lifestyles patterns of New Zealanders
 Increased range of leisure choices
 Competing tensions within organisations
 Effectiveness of some funding allocations
 Increased legal complexities
 Ad hoc development of community facilities
 Lack of co-ordination between government agencies.

This is just a small range of the issues that have arisen and that the review team developing recommendations on. There are already some early solutions emerging like:

 The establishment of a coherent rationale and framework for government investment in sport, fitness and leisure;
 The need for greater partnering between agencies and organisation with an interest in sport, fitness and leisure and that this partnering include corporate investment;
 A long term planned rationalisation of operating structures in the sector
 Clearer articulation of the positive attributes of our current system and a stronger effort placed to ensure these elements are not lost. For example, volunteer support, safety systems, and the school as the centre for early participation in the community.

I guess you'll be able to tell from this that the review team is facing a challenge. It does seem to be going well and is on track to deliver a final report to me by Christmas.

I'd like to just mention here briefly a couple of reviews that are going on in other areas that impact on your sector.

The review of Funding Powers for Local Government will be a general clarification of the decision processes with greater transparency - so local authorities will have to make their funding decisions for recreation in a different way. The Local Government Act Review may clarify who provides what form of recreation, with this area being an ongoing issue between regional and local authorities. Regional reserves are an issue here.

Both of these reviews are still at an early stage, so it is hard to exactly how they would effect the recreation sector. But both are intended to make local government more responsive to their communities, of which part will be what those communities want their councils to provide by way of recreation. So there will probably be follow-on effects in this area rather than specific changes caused by the review.

Reviews like the ones I have spoken of today are a really important part of this Government's agenda. It is crucial for us to define our priorities and be more strategic in our spending.

That is a difficult policy for us. After years in Opposition, Ministers are brimming with ideas and plans to advance the causes within their portfolios. We are determined to change the direction National led New Zealand down during the nineties.

But we are also determined to be more than a one term Government. Showing that we are fiscally responsible is integral to that. The test for a centre left government is tougher than that for the right. No one would thank us if inflation and interest rates took off.

We can not sacrifice those long-term aims for the sake of a one term spending spree so we will not always be able to fund the projects we believe in.

But I'm proud of the balance that we have achieved so far. We have come through with our big pledge items like restoring the rate of superannuation, scrapping the interest off loans while students are still studying, and reintroducing income related rents for state house tenants. And we are well on the road to implementing the social and economic policies aimed at making New Zealand a fairer place to live. A country where opportunity is not determined by the wealth of the community you were born into.

I will be looking closely how your sector fits into these aims in the first half of next year.


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