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Cosgrove: Canterbury leading the way

Hon Clayton Cosgrove
Minister for Sport and Recreation

30 April 2008 Speech

Canterbury leading the way – speech to the Sport Executives breakfast for Canterbury Regional Sports Organisations

Venue: Scenic Circle Hotel, Christchurch.
Time: 7.30am – 8.30am, 30 April 2008

Sport Canterbury West Coast Chairperson Mike Dolden and the Chief Executive Martin Mongan as well as your fellow trustees and staff; the Chief Executives of many of Canterbury’s Regional Sport Organisations; special guests; ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning and welcome. As a fellow Cantabrian, it always gives me great pleasure to be talking to a local audience, and especially to organisations like yours that give so much to our communities.

I think it is important for everyone in the sport and recreation sector to put aside for a moment the day-to-day pressures and tasks you face and reflect on the importance of your work to New Zealanders.

As I said at the Leaders in Sport conference in Auckland earlier this month, I do not think it is possible to overstate the value of the sport and recreation sector to a nation. Getting Kiwis moving and participating in sport and recreation activities has huge benefits for our health and wellbeing as a nation. It is a source of great enjoyment and excitement; it can harbour a healthy competitive spirit and unify a country and a community.

I am sure that all of us in this room feel that our pride as Cantabrians is the strongest when the Crusaders are tackling their opponents on the rugby field, when the Canterbury Wizards and Magicians are on the cricket pitch, when the SKOPE Canterbury Tactix and the Rams are dominating the netball and basketball courts, and when the Canterbury United Football is kicking the goals, to name just a few examples.

Sport and recreation provides us with common ground through shared goals and the pride we take in achievement, and is part of the cultural fabric of the nation.

You are key people in making this happen. The sport and recreation organisations in Canterbury have a reputation of being well run, successful organisations that are focused on grass roots as well as creating a culture of excellence among our elite athletes. Our region’s outstanding history in sport and recreation is one of the main reasons why we are all so proud to be from Canterbury.

Yet we all realise that our great sporting traditions are not enough in themselves to ensure that sport and recreation will prevail in the future. The success or otherwise of many organisations has been determined by their ability to adapt to change. This is no different for sport and recreation organisations.

One of the most significant and pressing challenges today is to meet the changing sport and recreation needs of your communities. At a local level I am sure that many of you here today can attest to challenges such as the decreasing availability of traditional volunteers to coach and train your players, to fundraise and organise fixtures, for example.

This nation-wide trend is being driven by societal changes such as changing work patterns, plus the competition for people’s time from a wide range of alternative leisure pursuits. Sport and recreation organisations are also operating in an increasingly complex, competitive and regulatory environment. Accordingly, these organisations require a higher skill set in order to manage escalating financial budgets and better governance to manage risks and set strategic directions. This often means there is a need for enhanced management practices.

While the members of many boards are committed volunteers, it is important to ensure that they have access to training and resources in order to develop and maintain high quality governance of sport and recreation organisations.

The government is working hard to support sport and recreation organisations in meeting these modern requirements. In fact the government’s decision to establish its agency Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) in 2001 was in direct recognition of the need for a long-term process to revitalise the sport and physical recreation sector.

Already, important progress has been made. The government has taken steps to improve the effectiveness and capacity of the sector and has significantly increased its investment.

The government has worked directly with 25 organisations on reviewing and building their governance capability. SPARC’s chief executive leadership development programme has been a great success. It provides personal leadership assessment, tailored workshops and personal coaching. It is now in its third year, with 25 graduates from the 2006 and 2007 programmes.

Fellow Cantabrian Martin Sneddon is a graduate of the 2006 course and two other Christchurch sports leaders are attending this year’s course - Fiona Pimm from He Oranga Pounamu and John Filsell, the Christchurch City Council manager for sports and recreation.

You will also be aware of SPARC's seminar programme. This programme runs annually and is available to all sport and recreation organisations including regional sports trusts. It is designed for chief executives, board members, and senior and specialist staff, and it covers a range of management and technical skills.

This region is already on this path to excellence. Sport Canterbury is widely-regarded as one of the country’s top performing regional sports trusts and it has done much in this region to improve sector capability.

Club Mark is one example of how this region is well-served by Sport Canterbury. The initiative is helping sport clubs develop their management potential and improve their planning, financial management, health and safety standards, and volunteer management. All this will help ensure they will continue to survive and thrive into the future. Seventy Canterbury clubs have been awarded bronze, silver or gold Club Mark awards and over 100 clubs have been, or are going, through the programme. The anecdotal feedback from clubs has been very positive, with organisations seeing an improvement in their systems.

The Sport Canterbury Report Card, which you initiated, is a very valuable tool to help develop sport. As you are aware Sport Canterbury gathers annual sporting statistics for the region, analyses them, and then provides a sports report card back to this breakfast once a year. This data collection process and the resulting statistical analysis that it generates has improved decision-making at a local level - and is once again a great example of Sport Canterbury leading the way.

Clearly a lot of good work is being done to increase sporting organisations’ capability, and we have some great success stories. But we are in no way out of the woods.

I now want to talk about three critical issues facing the sector throughout the country – because these issues affect your regional organisations. The first issue is financial sustainability. I am acutely aware that some national sport organisations are financially stressed and this has a huge impact on regional organisations

With the tightening of access to gaming funding for national programmes there is a necessity for a strong emphasis on accurate planning, matched by realistic budget setting and good budget management. Funding received from Gaming, Community Trusts and the government is increasingly tagged for specific projects as investors become more specific about their return.

The ease of access to Trust funding has resulted in many organisations becoming overly reliant on gaming money, and losing focus on gaining discretionary income from membership fees, sponsorship, commercial partnerships and other forms of revenue. This inability to generate discretionary income means there is a problem establishing reserves.

So what’s being done by Government to help address this? Here are a couple of examples. The government is continuing to meet with Gaming and Community Trust funders to find ways to better advance capability development and the financial sustainability of sector organisations. The government is also working directly with your national sporting bodies to identify ways to improve the management of their finances. These improvements will, of course, filter down to the regional level.

In the near future I will host a meeting for business leaders and sports leaders. Beyond sponsorship, currently there are few examples of sport and business sector partnerships. This needs to change. This meeting will provide a forum where the business and sport sector leaders can explore opportunities for collaboration and partnerships between the sectors, to the benefit of both.

A second critical national issue is attracting, retaining and developing quality senior managers. How do we attract talented young people who see a great future in being skilled sport and recreation administrators? Government research into human resource management in sport has revealed a very low level of awareness among secondary and tertiary institutions of opportunities for young people in sports management.

There are also retention issues as a result of lack of career pathways for young people and remuneration rates that often cannot compete with other sectors. To help address this issue SPARC is updating its People Management Toolkit, which organisations can customise for their own process. The changes will incorporate new legislative changes as well as the current trends relating to best practices. An updated version will be available online in the middle of this year.

In addition to this, the government is developing a suite of sample job descriptions to be available as a resource for sport and recreation organisations to use when developing job descriptions for the people in their organisations.

Another project in the pipeline is the development and implementation of a Talent Management Strategy for the sector, to enhance the recruitment and retention of new staff. This strategy should be in finalised over the next year.

The third critical national issue concerns the relationships between clubs, districts, regions and national organisations – and this is where Sport Canterbury is really making a positive difference. There is a joke that New Zealand is a nation of committees - when two people get together they form a committee. This tendency often leads to the growth of convoluted organisational structures that are an anchor to progress. Where the organisational interfaces for a sport are poor, structures can be riddled with differences and politics (in the sporting sense!); there is often distrust and a lack of cooperation ….. well I do not need to draw the picture; we all know the outcome.

We are a small country with limited resources, so we have to think smarter and be smarter than our big competitors. One of the ways in which we can do this is by achieving alignment between regions and national bodies, and across sporting codes.

Opportunities provided by Sport Canterbury such as Westminster Sports Incorporated and the Sports Executive breakfasts that were set up six years ago are very successful. They provide you, as sports administrators and sports leaders with networking opportunities to share ideas, analyse issues and work through solutions and seek synergies between your organisations. It gives you an opportunity that you would be unlikely to get elsewhere to be exposed to outside expert speakers and to learn about the latest issues and trends for the sector. I know that other sports regions in New Zealand have replicated this Canterbury initiative. I commend you for your leadership once again.

My vision is a sport and recreation sector that in the next decade has extremely high participation levels among all New Zealanders at the grassroots level, where our clubs and organisations are competitive and thriving, and where our sports leaders and administrators are highly regarded around the world. I want New Zealand to set the standard, and to continue punching well above its weight on the world stage. By investing in the capability of our leaders we will achieve this.

Our sector organisations will become financially sustainable; good governance will be the norm; and clubs, districts, regions and national sport organisations will be closely aligned with strong effective working relationships.

I have talked this morning about what I think the key issues are facing the sector and the initiatives Government is working on to help build long term sustainability.
Many of you in this room this morning hold significant leadership positions within your organisation. Leadership is predominantly about influencing people and shaping the future. The importance of leadership within the sport and recreation sector cannot be over-stated – we need you.

The world around us is changing and sport and recreation is not isolated from this change. If the sector is to flourish and continue to make a major contribution to the well being of New Zealanders, it needs to understand and respond to change. We need highly skilled leaders to help us do that. I would urge you to take advantage of every leadership development opportunity that there is. And I would like to acknowledge the strong leadership Sport Canterbury has been demonstrating here in recent years.

Thank you for the opportunity to come and speak with you this morning. It is great to be in Canterbury talking to a group of people that are doing such sound job for sport and recreation in New Zealand. It makes me very proud to be a Cantabrian. I would now be keen to hear your views and questions.

ENDS

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