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The Graham Report

26 May 2005

The Graham Report

Presentation to sports and business students at Massey University, Albany.


Good morning everyone. I would like to thank Dr. Bradbury for inviting me to speak to you today.

I've been asked to talk about the Ministerial taskforce review of sport and recreation that took place in 2000 and the impact it has had on the sport and recreation sector in New Zealand.

To start with some background, in 1999 there were three main organisations responsible for promoting and supporting sport and recreation:

The Hillary Commission, which was a government agency whose emphasis was on participation programmes to promote sport amongst all New Zealanders;

The Office of Tourism and Sport, set up to provide policy advice to the government on sport, fitness and leisure issues; and

The New Zealand Sports Foundation, which was an independent organisation aimed at supporting elite athletes.

There were also many other agencies active in the sector, both at a national and local level. However, there was little coordination between organisations and the sector was fragmented and ineffective.

As well as the division within the sector, there was a lack of growth, with many sports clubs and recreation organisations noting a reduction in numbers.

Physical activity levels were declining and the obesity epidemic was starting to become a real public health issue.

At the same time, the high performance environment was seen as becoming increasingly competitive and New Zealand was in danger of being left behind unless we became smarter in utilising our limited resources.

In 2000, as the Minister for Sport, Fitness and Leisure, I commissioned a Ministerial Taskforce to look at the existing sports systems, identify the issues and constraints, and clearly define a vision for the sector for the next 25 years.

The taskforce was chaired by John Graham, a former All Black and New Zealand cricket team manager, so although the report was officially titled Getting Set For an Active Nation, it has become more widely known as the Graham Report.

Being a sporting nation, there was a high level of interest in this review. During the course of their work the taskforce received 365 submissions and held over 170 individual meetings and workshops throughout the country.

So, what has been the impact of this report?

The Taskforce had been "seriously concerned at the lack of effective coordination between government agencies" and found that, as a consequence, significant benefits that could have been derived had not been.

It was recommended that the Hillary Commission, the Office of Tourism and Sport and the New Zealand Sports Foundation be replaced by a single Crown entity, Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC).

SPARC was established through the Sport and Recreation Act 2002. SPARC has three key areas of focus - participation, high performance and sports systems.

The formation of SPARC signalled a fresh start for government intervention in the sport and recreation sector. It was more than just a merger of the three previous organisations, it was a clean sheet of paper to rewrite the way sport and recreation were administered in New Zealand.

As far as programmes are concerned, there have been several changes as a result of the Taskforce Report:

A number of programmes have continued, but with a more strategic focus. For example, the highly successful Push Play campaign initially sought to create awareness throughout New Zealand of the benefits of physical activity. Now, as research has identified specific target groups and obstacles to engagement, specific marketing strategies are being utilised to target these groups.

The New Zealand Academy of Sport was originally established in 2000, under the New Zealand Sports Foundation, and now forms SPARC's high performance component. The academy network provides a comprehensive support system to help New Zealanders achieve sporting excellence.

This network includes the carding programmes whereby nominated athletes and coaches have access to sport science services, the Performance Enhancement Grants that provide direct financial assistance, and the Prime Minister's Scholarships which help athletes pursue tertiary study while training and competing.

Active Movement, Active Schools and Active Communities are examples of new programmes that have been introduced to target and promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles for all New Zealanders.

Another key area is that of coaching. Coaching was highlighted as needing immediate attention by the Graham Report and the New Zealand Coaching Strategy, launched earlier this year, has been a key response to this taskforce recommendation.

One of the most significant changes as a result of the Graham Report has been the way the sector is funded.

Previous funding agreements with sport and recreation organisations were based on yearly grants. This helped create an entitlement mentality whereby organisations expected funding regardless of whether they were actually producing results.

SPARC has now moved to a more strategic results-orientated approach whereby organisations receive funding if they are committed to contributing to SPARC's objectives.

The Taskforce Report said that the level of government spending in the sport and recreation sector was highly inadequate - certainly not enough to attain the levels of sporting success that as a nation we expect.

I am happy to say that government funding of sport has increased significantly since that time.

Using Treasury figures we can see that the Vote Sport and Recreation appropriations have increased from $3.2 million in the 2000/01 year to a budgeted total of nearly $50 million for 2004/05.

The Graham Report has had a far-reaching impact throughout the sector, including the way that SPARC relates to sport and recreation organisations.

SPARC now recognises just one National Sporting Organisation (NSO) for each code, and all SPARC's dealings with that sport are through the recognised NSO. The same applies to National Recreation Organisations (NROs).

Regional Sports Trusts (RSTs) also play a key role in the sport and recreation sector, delivering SPARC's programmes throughout the country, as well as their own regional initiatives. The Graham Report noted a marked variation in the performance levels across RSTs. As a result, the trusts have been carefully evaluated and objective performance indicators are being introduced. SPARC funding to RSTs has increased.

Looking to the future, there are a number of issues that will shape New Zealand sport over the coming years and we don't have time to analyse all of these in detail today but I would like to mention a few.

Firstly, it may be time to revisit the categorisation of sports in New Zealand. SPARC has developed "priority sports", "performance sports", "participation sports" and "recognition sports". It may be time to evaluate if these categorisations have been beneficial? Is there a better way for SPARC to relate to the sporting codes?

Secondly, the fresh approach to funding with results-orientated investment replacing straight entitlement grants has been a step in the right direction. A continuation of this approach, including the tying of investment to specifically targeted outcomes within sports, must also be considered.

Thirdly, it may be time to question the very role of government in the sector. Perhaps some of the activities that SPARC is involved in would best be achieved by another government agency, or possibly some of the tasks are better matched to private sector participation? But where would this stand in light of the Graham Reports recommendation of a one stop shop to replace the fragmentation that previously existed?

Finally, and timely for the review of government involvement in the sector, 2006 marks the end of SPARC's first planning cycle. Evaluating SPARC's performance to date will identify new priority areas where change is required and new plans will be laid out for the next six years, through until 2012.

This has been a very quick walk through the Graham Report and it's impact on sport and recreation in New Zealand.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak. It has provided me with a good opportunity to reflect on the last few years and the changes that have been made.

I believe that the changes have been for the better and that we are heading in the right direction. However there is still a long way to go and I'm sure there will be many new challenges ahead.

I wish you all the best for your studies and look forward to seeing you out working in the sector.


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