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Creating New Zealand's future - Anderton Speech

Hon Jim Anderton
Speech Notes

The Prime Minister's Sports Scholarships –
Creating New Zealand's future

Millennium Hotel
Christchurch.
6 pm Friday
30 March 2001

I am honoured to be here today to recognise promising Young New Zealanders.

I am always pleased to celebrate Kiwi success.

If New Zealand is to do better economically and as a society we need to get more comfortable, and certainly a lot more enthusiastic, about celebrating our successes instead of dwelling on our failures. This applies to sport as well as all fields of endeavour.

These Sports Scholarships are called the Prime Minister's Awards to recognise the importance of success in sport to our nation and our nation's psyche.

The area I have worked in most extensively since becoming Deputy Prime Minister is Economic, Regional and Industry Development.

One of the hardest things to explain to people is what regional development is. Trying to explain that by helping one region we are not taking from others but assisting the whole economy, is sometimes hard going.

At one public meeting I can remember getting blank looks, until I started talking about the Super 12.

For our All Black team to be the best it can, we need strong Super 12 teams, strong NPC teams and strong club teams.

Regional Development is like creating strong Super 12 regional economies.

All of a sudden the lights go on.

I'm not so sure if I was in Europe I would use a rugby analogy. I might talk about soccer, but I would be more likely to try and explain regional development using another comparison. One British article recently talked about economic development comparing it to upgrading a PC.

Here, in New Zealand, start talking about netball, cricket or rugby or horse racing and people understand.

New Zealanders love sport.

New Zealanders understand sport and relate to it.

A recent Sports Foundation survey said that 94 per cent of New Zealanders have an interest in sport and 87 per cent expected New Zealand to do well in key events.

Even given changes to participation rates brought on by busier working lives and the increase in technology, Kiwis, on average, play more sport than the people of other countries to which we like to compare ourselves.

In the last few months there has been some discussion about how we can make New Zealand the best small country in the world.

It is an issue which has occupied my time as I have travelled from region to region and town to town.

We need to concentrate on the natural resources we have and what we do well.

At the end of last year I met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore. Singapore is a country to which we used to provide overseas aid. It was part of the Colombo Plan where we provided places for their students in our universities. However in the last 30 years, with very little in the way of natural resources, Singapore has targeted and addressed the barriers to economic growth to the point that it has huge cash reserves.

Yet the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore told me that he envied New Zealand. And if we have something they envy then we need to take note. I asked him what it was that he envied about New Zealand. His reply was it is the ability of kiwis to be innovative and creative.

When we want people who are creative and innovative, he said, we go to New Zealand.

Here in New Zealand we have a history of great sports people who stand out as being committed and rugged individuals, both in individual sports and as members of successful teams.

Our sports people are innovative, committed and have huge hearts.

We need to support you.

We need to allow New Zealanders to be the best they can be, at whatever they can excel in.

These awards are an excellent way to do this.

I think many people have missed just how radical the changes to our country's sports administration have been.

Most of you here will be aware that in the last 16 months the New Zealand Academy has been created. This Labour Alliance Coalition Government has invested $16 million over four years to this Academy concept. The Academy now successfully allocates Government funding for all major sports.

There has been the introduction of the carding system which allows an individual's sports successes to be compared. It ensures that sports people from the major competitive codes can have access to facilities and resources based on their success.

The Government has injected an additional $14 million over three years to provide Prime Ministers Scholarships to under 25 year old sports people. These Scholarships contribute to study costs and some living and training costs.

One issue is that young sports people haven't always been able to afford to study and to train. In the past we have made them choose one or the other. These Scholarships are only awarded to people who are studying. When their active sporting careers are over they will have qualifications and skills to find other employment.

These changes are fundamental and are designed to take us a long way into the future.

The successful young sports people to be recognised here tonight are, if they are not already, tomorrow's top international achievers.

These sports people are the role models for the young people that follow them.

They are ambassadors for New Zealand and for our innovative ways of doing things.

New Zealand's future is in their hands. And it is also in our hands.

It is up to us not only to produce but also retain our successful New Zealanders.

I have noticed that people who succeed in sports usually have a mental and organisational discipline which makes them achieve and excel in other areas.

The challenge for New Zealand is to be a country that is attractive to skilled and talented individuals. Attractive enough for our young sports people to succeed and then to stay here.

We need a country that is confident in its own unique culture. We need to see New Zealand performers on the world’s stages. We need to be proud of what we do and the unique, distinctive way we do things.

I want to pay tribute to the highly talented young sports people here tonight who will shortly be honoured; - I want you to know - we need you to succeed.

I also want to pay tribute to your families and friends, to your coaches and mentors; - to all of you - Your continued support and commitment is essential to making our country the best it can be.

It is a privilege to be here tonight. I am pleased to be able to present these awards.

However I am particularly pleased that these awards exist and that the Academy is doing such an excellent job.

In Government there are a few times when you realise you are doing something which will have a significant long term benefit for the country. With these awards and all that they represent I know tonight is one of those times.

Thank you.

…Ends

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