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Championing high-quality recreation

Fit for the future - Local Government Perspectives 2017

Whilst 74 percent of New Zealand adults take part in sport and recreation in any given week, participant numbers are declining. NZRA outlines how it is working to stop this downward trend.

Andrew Leslie, Chief Executive, New Zealand Recreation Association

Life for many New Zealanders has become busier and time more precious. At the same time, lifestyles are becoming less active because of automation and time spent in front of screens, and in many communities, backyards and green spaces are reducing.

The New Zealand Recreation Association’s (NZRA) purpose is to champion high-quality recreation for the benefit of New Zealand. Our vision is that in 2020 New Zealand has a strong recreation industry that meets the needs of current and future participants, so that through recreation, New Zealanders are active, healthy and connected.

Plans and advocacy

In the past year, we have completed the NZRA Strategic Plan, which supports our vision for New Zealanders to be more active and healthy through recreation. The plan outlines the steps we are taking now and in the long term to meet our goals and to champion recreation for the benefit of New Zealand.

In recent years, NZRA has been increasing its focus on advocacy. In the 2015 / 2016 year we took a significant step forward by hiring a full-time advocacy manager. This has allowed NZRA to invest more in its collaboration with key partners such as the Department of Conservation, the NZ Mountain Safety Council and the Generate Network.

NZRA has also been able to invest time and effort in many successful advocacy initiatives this year, including Parks Week, which saw councils and other organisations on both sides of the Tasman running engaging events to raise awareness of the value of parks and open spaces, and submissions on consultation documents such as the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 and the Adventure Activity Regulations.


The aquatics sector has seen its upward trend in engagement continue with increased numbers attending the Just Add Water Seminar (JAWS) in 2016. Gary Johnson from See Clearly Now was a keynote speaker on Pool Super Vision and ran a workshop for lifeguards on his risk management approach to drowning prevention at public swimming facilities.

There was high demand for Gary to return and run workshops throughout the country, so the workshops were run in November with 160 lifeguards attending. Gary will return in 2017 as the demand for workshops was higher than the time allocated for him to be here.

Our quality management scheme, PoolSafe, is an independent assessment of public pools to ensure that their operations and facilities are safe. PoolSafe is continuing to grow and is now supported with a reporting system to replace the old paper-based reporting sheet.

To link in with this system NZRA and IMS (Integrated Management Systems) launched PoolTest – a system for recording and reporting pool test results. Facility Manager was also launched in New Zealand at the same time giving facilities a system of checklists to assist them with compliance.

Professional development

Another highlight was the quality of NZRA professional development events, with a particular emphasis on webinars that make it possible for anyone in the recreation industry to take part, regardless of location and financial means. We ran three free Health and Safety in Recreation webinars, exploring the impact of the new Health and Safety at Work Act on recreation staff and management. We also ran other successful webinars, including the Building a Bridge webinar in conjunction with Generate Network to discuss technology and innovation in sport and recreation.

Our 2016 Outdoors Forum provided a great platform for discussion of factors impacting outdoor experiences, such as how technology affects our interaction with the great outdoors. Insights from knowledgeable speakers ranged from health benefits to environmental impact, and enabled people from a wide range of viewpoints to gain a greater understanding of the issues and debate new ideas.

The Forum also facilitated and strengthened connections between people working within the outdoors sector. The feedback from attendees supported the themes of ongoing sharing, learning and collaboration. As one participant said: “I have a better understanding of our industry and what the opportunities are for getting the next generation outdoors.”

Research has shown that younger New Zealanders reported greater rates of decline in weekly participation than the national trend, so we are proud to be working with our members and the recreation industry to make a positive change for the next generation.

Additionally, NZRA’s regional committees continue to play an active part in delivering professional development opportunities for recreation professionals, and more top quality regional events can be expected as time goes on. One of NZRA’s priorities is to facilitate relationships within the recreation industry. A key step towards achieving this was agreement on a new membership structure that is more flexible and allows NZRA to grow its membership base.

Under the new structure, membership options include individual subscriptions, organisational membership, associate memberships and virtual memberships. For more information, take a look at our website nzrecreation.org.nz.

Parks and open spaces

In the parks and open space sector, 2016 highlights included a strong community outcome focus in planning and delivery, and a growth in understanding of the multiple benefits to health and social cohesion through access to parks and open spaces.

We have also seen a public and organisational desire for reduced or eliminated use of glyphosate leading to manual and natural weed pest management. It is imperative to utilise sustainable water management measures through improved water use, collection and storage.

On the horizon: 2020 goals

This year we look forward to a full programme of events and continuing to work towards the goals we set out in our strategic plan. By 2020, NZRA will have:

  • Established strong and constructive relationships with a wide range of strategic partners at the national level and made key connections internationally, so that the profile of recreation (its value and importance) is well understood by key stakeholders, and advice on issues regarding recreation is actively sought and proactively given.
  • Ensured the industry has robust information that reflects the current and future needs of the changing ‘participant’, with high-quality insights and data at its fingertips to effectively highlight the value and importance of the industry and influence decisions.
  • Facilitated and strengthened connections between people working within the recreation industry, including between different sectors, at local, regional and national levels, that support ongoing sharing, learning and collaboration.
  • Contributed to the ongoing development and delivery of needs-based professional development opportunities that are formally recognised.
  • Overseen and guided the development and implementation of a flexible quality assurance framework for the recreation industry.
  • Significantly grown the membership, so NZRA is a truly representative body for the recreation industry.
  • Changed our business and operating model to be more efficient and effective in our delivery, diversified our funding streams and increased our resilience to unforeseen changes.

As always, NZRA depends on the relationships with our partners, and on the enthusiasm and dedication of all those who are involved in recreation. It is the energy that our members, staff and partners bring to the table day after day, and their unwavering belief in the value of our work, that continues to inspire us to deliver.

This article was first published in Local Government Perspectives 2017.

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