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Launch Of The National Sports Academy North

Hon Trevor Mallard Speech Notes

Thanks for the invitation to launch the National Sports Academy North.

In three days time, I will have been Minister of Sport, Fitness and Leisure for one year.

It's been a year of great challenges for me and in some ways this portfolio has provided me with a bit of light relief among all the paperwork that crosses my desk. I consider myself extremely lucky that this job allows me to satisfy my passion for sport and still call it work.

But behind the excitement and pleasure of major sporting fixtures, the sport sector is one that I believe could do with a bit more structure and a bit more overall vision.

That's why during the first half of this year, we developed the terms of reference and established a Ministerial Review into Sport, Fitness and Leisure.

John Graham has been leading that group and I'd like to thank him for all the hard work he has put into it. The review team's Christmas present to me is likely to be the final report. Although I think it’s a present that I will end up paying for.

I hope that I can distribute it publicly in January so that you all get a chance to look at it before the Government issues a formal response.

In the meantime, some of the issues that have arisen from the consultation round include

 leadership expectations and visions for 2025
 funding requirements
 lifting the value people put on sport and physical activity
 the role and focus of key agencies and delivery systems
 the need to re-energise the current infrastructure
 coaching support & leadership

I'd like to state here that we have a commitment to high performance sport.

I've heard recently lots of criticism about a focus on participation in sport. According to some critics that makes us namby pambies!

The Government does have a focus on participation. To us, that means getting as many people as possible to participate in sport and other physical activities. We recognise that there are considerable social and health benefits from this.

But it does not come at the expense of promoting excellence and supporting those athletes with major talent.

That is why we are interested in supporting establishments like the one we are launching today.

Your vision is: To provide world-class sport science, sports medicine, career and education services, training facilities and other support to New Zealand sports, athletes and coaches to improve international performance.

Those are certainly objectives that we feel complement the Government's vision.

We are never going to have the huge amounts of money that some countries are able to put towards high performance sport. But with a bit of extra financial help and some smart thinking, I think we can support more athletes, more comprehensively.

The National Sports Academy North is already offering sport science and sports medicine. Coaching support services will be implemented during first half of 2001.

It will amount to offering a unique package consisting of international standard medical services, sports science support, training facilities, education and career development opportunities – catering for athletes from Northland to Taupo.

I know that there are currently 414 carded athletes in the Northern Region and already nearly half of them have received inductions on how to access the sports services provided by the Northern Region

One of the most important aspects of the sports academy to me is that they are not only targeted at existing top athletes but they also aim to recognise and develop new talent.

That's another objective that we are keen to support and I am pleased that we are working with the academies to help tertiary students who will be the recipients of the Prime Minister's Sports Scholarships.

As Minister of Education and Minister of Sport, I want to ensure that our up and coming athletes are less likely to have to make a choice between a sports career or an education. I want to ensure that they are able to work on their education while pursuing their sports career. It is important that we give them the tools to ensure that at the end of their sports careers they are able to make their way into the world with a career. We want to help to build up our base of athletes by giving them a hand up at a crucial stage in their careers.

I'd like to end by acknowledging the Olympic athletes here today.

As athletes you represented New Zealand, yourselves, your families, your communities and all of those who have supported you over the years.

Attending the Olympics and the Paralympics was one of the highlights of my year. They were amazing events and I was proud of the way that our athletes performed both during the competition and around the Olympics.

Thank you.

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