Sport NZ’s Connections Conference 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 17:02
Sport and Recreation


It’s great to be here for Sport New Zealand’s annual sport and recreation conference.

I’d like to acknowledge Sir Paul Collins and Peter Miskimmin, and all of the other Chairs and CE’s here today. I’d also like to acknowledge the other speakers, including Lieutenant General Tim Keating who’ll be up next to talk about NZDF leadership.

I actually saw General Keating on Friday at the opening of the SAS Battle Training Facility, where the Prime Minister instead of cutting a ribbon to officially open it - he hit a switch which blew stuff up.

On the sport and recreation front, I’ve had a great weekend. Kicked off with a bush walk late Friday afternoon.

Got up Saturday to coach my kids under 6 year old soccer team, and I tell you, it’s one of the absolute highlights of my week.

I don’t really know anything about soccer, my background is rugby, but I’ve had these kids last year, it’s the same group this year, and just the increase in understanding of what they’re trying to do on the field, their skill level and participation is really noticeable.

While football has had some adverse publicity, where they do seem to be getting things right is at the junior level, getting kids into the game, and supporting coaches.

So Saturday afternoon - it was a great win for Northcote D6 mixed doubles interclub side, putting us into the final next weekend - although to put it in context, one of the guys on the other team was 81.

But like millions of other Kiwis, I’m getting huge ongoing personal enjoyment out of my participation in sport.


The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Leading in a complex world’. It’s crucial the sector has a good understanding of the challenges New Zealand faces, and a clear strategic direction and plan to ensure we meet these challenges.

At a strategic level if you look at all the work we do across Government departments - a key focus for the Government is for agencies and Ministries to work across portfolio boundaries to achieve better outcomes for New Zealanders.

While we’re all aware of our success in high performance sport, there’s an increasing emphasis in government circles on the contribution sport can make right across the social sector.

Although linkages are often complex, a simple description would be that physically active kids who are participating in sport are healthier, and more focused in the classroom. This all feeds into better educational achievement which statistically means better social outcomes for any given cohort.

In short, as far as kids are concerned - into sport – out of court.

Value of sport

Sport and recreation makes a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economy – at around $4.9 billion a year, that’s 2.3 per cent of GDP.

Households spend $1.7 billion on sports goods and equipment.

The economic, social, health, and personal benefits of sport and recreation to New Zealand have previously been estimated at over $12.2 billion.

Importance of strategic direction

With so much at stake socially and economically, and with the clear linkages to national identity - it’s crucial to have clear direction for the sector.

Last year I launched Sport NZ’s Strategic Plan and Community Sport Strategy for 2015-2020.

These strategies have been shaped to respond to the changing trends and challenges, and set a clear path ahead for increasing sport participation and outcomes.

The Strategic Plan focuses on four areas – young people; strengthening the local delivery of sport especially in low participation communities; ensuring traditional sports pathways remain strong; and driving high performance outcomes through High Performance Sport NZ.

The Community Sport Strategy is designed to deliver a participant-centred system which increases sport participation.

Currently the delivery of community sport works well in some parts of the country, but not as well in others. We need to focus both on sustaining our high participation rates and growing participation in targeted communities.

It’s timely that Sport NZ has also kicked off their project Future Proofing the Active Recreation Sector which will ensure we better understand the sector and how it can contribute to getting more Kiwis active.

Low participation communities

The Government invests $20 million a year in Kiwisport. Regional Sport Trusts invest some of this investment into priorities identified in their communities to increase participation of young people. 

Sport NZ is also realigning some of their community sport investment in Regional Sport Trusts to ensure support is available in this area.

Also, in partnership with Auckland Council and Aktive - Auckland Sport and Recreation, Sport NZ is targeting low participation communities in Auckland. 

This initiative will see investment of $1.2 million in projects to increase activity in these groups, particularly through families. There will be research to identify specific issues and demands in the communities and also an action plan for the development of volunteers who enable sport and physical activity opportunities.


During times of tight fiscal constraint, Sport NZ has been one of the few government entities which has seen funding increase substantially.

Sport NZ’s funding has increased from around $58 million in 2008 to $87 million in 2015. With additional funding for infrastructure and lotteries grants, Sport NZ’s total funding has almost doubled.

The benefits for New Zealand from such investment are significant, including our positive international brand exposure and inspiring participation in sport at all levels.

However, if we want to continue to receive more, we need to be able to quantify the return on the Government’s investment.

I have asked officials to develop a way of measuring this.

Major sporting events

Hosting major sporting events in New Zealand offers many benefits - from an economic and tourism perspective, to boosting our reputation and profile overseas, and increasing Kiwis participation in sport.

Since our successful hosting of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand has continued to build a reputation for hosting world class international sporting events. Last year we successfully hosted the FIFA under-20 World Cup, and co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup.

We’re looking forward to the World Masters Games and the Lions Tour in 2017.

High Performance

In terms of high performance, New Zealand’s system is world-class. With the establishment of High Performance Sport NZ in 2011 results have improved year on year.

The Government invests $62 million annually in High Performance Sport NZ which provides a one stop shop for all of the high performance athlete’s needs, allowing them to concentrate on winning on the world stage.

Success on the world stage is important. It provides role models to inspire people and encourage participation which leads to a more active, healthier population, it promotes New Zealand internationally, and it brings the country together.

We achieved great success on the world stage in 2015. The All Blacks became the first team to win back to back Rugby World Cups, The Black Caps and Silver Ferns both made it to the final of their world cups, and the Kiwis rugby league team won the Anzac test.

Rio is shaping up to be our most successful games ever. Around 220 New Zealand athletes will compete in Rio, the largest team ever sent to an Olympic games.

High Performance Sport NZ are confident we’ll reach our target of 14 medals in the Olympics and 12 gold medals in the Paralympics.

It’s important that the high performance system continues to deliver if we are to meet the Government’s wider objectives in sport.

Sport integrity

I know that you’ll be hearing later from investigative sports journalist Declan Hill.

The integrity of sport is paramount. Whenever the integrity of sport is questioned, sports itself is the biggest loser.

Sport NZ, High Performance Sport NZ and Drug Free Sport NZ continue to work with the relevant agencies to safeguard the integrity of our sports system from the growing international threats of corruption, match-fixing and doping.

In New Zealand we have an anti-doping framework that’s very effective, and Drug Free Sport NZ provides crucial anti-doping education. In my capacity as Minister, I currently represent New Zealand, along with Australia and Oceania on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Foundation Board.

We’ve taken a holistic view to match-fixing and implemented a range of measures including legislative reforms, a national policy, and an education programme.

Sports integrity is an evolving area - it’s important we keep ahead of the bad guys.

Participation and benefits

We have high rates of participation in sport and recreation in New Zealand.

Three-quarters of adults, around 2.5 million people, take part in sport and recreation each week. 89 per cent of kids take part in organised and informal sport at least 3 hours a week.

Changing landscape and challenges

However, things are changing and New Zealand is not unique in its drift towards a more stationary lifestyle - it’s a global trend. Maintaining high participation rates is only going to become more difficult.

Urbanisation and other societal trends are changing the way Kiwis participate in sport. Technology is changing the way people interact with each other, and people are fitting sport into increasingly busy lives.

New Zealand’s demographics are also changing and the sport sector must adapt accordingly. Our communities are becoming more and more culturally diverse. Kiwis still participate in sport in high numbers, but they are making different choices. Traditional sport is still popular but there’s high demand for less formal active recreation options.

The sector needs to meet that demand for sport to continue to be such a positive force in our communities.

Obesity a top priority

As I said when I spoke to you last year, I’m keen to continue to leverage my Sport and Health portfolios to help encourage New Zealanders to live healthy active lives, and to tackle obesity.

Being overweight or obese is expected to overtake tobacco as the leading preventable risk to health in New Zealand within the next 12 months. We are the third most obese nation in the OECD.

Tackling the rising rates of obesity and chronic disease is a key priority for the Government. It’s not an easy task - there’s no silver bullet.

That’s why we developed a range of interventions in the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan which was launched in October last year.

The Plan contains 22 initiatives across government, the private sector, communities, schools and families – it’s a mix of new or an expansion of existing services.

It focuses on children as that’s where the evidence shows we can have the greatest impact. We’re taking a life course approach, which is evidence based. By focusing on children we expect to also influence the whole family.

At the core of the Plan is a new child obesity health target – one of the Government’s six national health targets. We want to see 95 per cent of children identified in the B4 school check as being obese referred to a health professional for an assessment. This will allow them access to support they need – from family nutrition advice, to help with activity and lifestyle changes.

It’s important to note that we’re now one of the very few countries in the OECD with an obesity target and a comprehensive evidence based programme to support it.

Community programmes such as Healthy Families will also continue to be rolled out around the county. We’re also working with the food industry on the role they can play, including appropriate advertising targeting children and food labelling.

As regards a sugar tax, despite the impression you might gain through the media, there is no evidence that a tax on sugary drinks decreases obesity.

It’s a very different situation to tobacco where progress on smoking rates has been made with a taxation rate of 150 per cent. In Mexico the tax on sugary drinks is a few per cent.

However, we will watch the results of two major international studies that report in 18 months time with interest.

Awareness campaign

Last November we launched a new high profile public awareness campaign to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes.

It’s fronted by a number of sport stars, including Valerie Adams, Casey Kopua, Israel Dagg, Brendon McCullum and Shaun Johnson.

‘Big change starts small’ encourages people to start making small changes to have a long term and positive impact on our children’s health and wellbeing.

Sport in schools

We’re also focused on getting kids to do more physical activity.

As part of the Childhood Obesity Plan, we’re expanding the Sport in Education programme in schools, and increasing and refocusing investment to target low participant communities.

In February I launched Play.sport in Upper Hutt. It’s a community based initiative to improve the quality and quantity of PE and sport in schools and communities. 

The Government is investing over $8 million over four years in Play.sport which is supported by the Ministry of Education and ACC. 

34 schools and local communities in Waitakere, Auckland and Upper Hutt, Wellington are receiving hands on support, training and practical assistance to deliver quality sport and physical education opportunities to young people.

Sport in education expansion

For the past three years Sport NZ has been driving an approach to changing teaching practices in secondary schools with at risk young people. 

‘Sport in Education’ schools use sport to make learning relevant for young people. This has been a powerful tool to improve outcomes for disengaged learners, including academic achievement, student attendance, behaviour and engagement. 

The New Zealand Council for Education Research recently completed an evaluation and found that in all participating schools the results have been consistently, and in some cases, dramatically, positive.  

The approach, supported by the Ministry of Education, is currently in place in eight schools - a further 22 schools will adopt it this year, with the overall goal of 40 schools over the next three years. 


In conclusion, it’s a great time for Kiwis up and down the country engaging in sport. You can all take credit for helping make this possible and I’d like to thank you for the contribution you make to keep the sector vibrant and successful.

We want New Zealanders to be living more healthy active lives. By encouraging activity in our kids we will also feed the pipeline of future sporting talent, which in turn inspires the next generation of kids. I think we’re up to the challenges ahead.

The NZ Sport and Recreation Awards tonight will be a good chance to celebrate our successes.