From playgrounds to recreation centres, climbing walls to swimming pools, local authorities are major players in the sport and recreation game. Yet non-traditional sport and recreation activities will increasingly impact on spaces and places, says Geoff Barry.
Getting Strategic: Five years after it launched its first Community Sport Strategy, Sport NZ is preparing to launch its 2015-2020 iteration. The new strategy will expand the breadth of the current approach and build on work already underway. While the aspiration of creating a worldleading community sport system will be continued, many external influences continue to shape how New Zealanders are consuming sport.
Individualised sport and physical activity is on the rise as social, cultural and technological shifts are changing how people engage with sport and recreation the world over − and New Zealand is no different. We now have far more choice in how we spend our leisure time. People are increasingly time poor, and fitting sport into busy and time fragmented lifestyles is difficult.
Add to that the growing number of young people with increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and the decline in quantity and quality of PE and sport opportunities in schools. This is particularly prevalent amongst young people in urban and lower socio-economic communities.
If we want to ensure that sport remains a priority in the lives of New Zealanders it is crucial that we all intimately understand sport participants and keep them at the heart of sport and recreation strategies. That applies equally to kids just starting on the sporting pathway, club members or gym-goers, weekend warriors, rising stars and established high-performance athletes.
It is vital that we create a system that provides sporting experiences to meet the needs and preferences of a wide variety of Kiwis, especially kids. And this means working more closely with investors in the community sport system to strengthen the connectivity between sport and key community settings like homes, schools, playgrounds and public facilities.
Territorial authorities are major contributors to the sport and recreation sector – spending on average around $700 million a year on sport and recreation, and maintaining $7 billion worth of fixed sport and recreation assets.
They are significant regional decision makers with strong connections to the issues in their communities. They contribute to the sports sector in a large number of ways including through strategic / regional planning and district / design planning. Local authorities provide facilities, fund regional sports trusts, clubs, events and active communities projects. They provide events and programmes, community development and help develop people’s sporting talent. And they market
facilities, events and programmes, and undertake research.
Sport NZ and territorial authorities share many of the same objectives. Yet there has not been as much collaboration as there
could be. By establishing stronger partnerships withorganisations close to the community, we will be able to give greater consideration to how we achieve a more direct impact on participants.
This means identifying opportunities for territorial authorities to connect with, and better understand, other sector organisations and their strategies. It also means establishing partnerships between territorial authorities, regional sports trusts and Sport NZ so we can better align our planning for programmes and improve how resources are shared.
Public spaces and sporting facilities will also need to be developed based on long term needs and in a wider community planning process that recognises they cannot be ‘single-purpose’ sites. Despite all the sporting facilities we have, the truth is we just don’t have the facilities we need. We have gaps and duplications, facilities that are not fit-for-purpose, some that we cannot afford and others that are due for replacement.
These problems are not unique to New Zealand: countries around the world are coming to the same realisation.
Sport NZ’s recently-developed Sporting Facilities Framework aims to help local authorities, funding agencies, government departments, and regional and national sports bodies work together to make smarter decisions in the future. It looks at how we can spend more effectively and rationalise how we all provide and manage sport and recreation facilities. It aims to benefit everyone involved in the sector.
Creating and delivering events for participants and spectators is also an essential core competency for territorial authorities and the sport sector.
We’ve always understood how events provide opportunities for sports participation and success, and inspire people to become involved in sport. But we can also see they deliver worthwhile social and economic outcomes. Improving the way we collaborate to plan and deliver sporting events, both large and small, will ensure we achieve more of the outcomes we want.
Community sport in New Zealand is alive and well. We are one of the world’s most successful sporting nations, with high rates of participation among both adults and young people. This all stems from the rich sporting heritage every generation to date has been fortunate to inherit and a wonderful delivery network led by national sports organisations, regional sport trusts, territorial authorities and many others.
But urbanisation, an ageing population and increasing ethnic diversity will no doubt continue to change the demand for community sport.