The Government is backing school sports with an $82 million funding boost but Labour warns it will do little to get couch potato children into physical activity.
Prime Minister John Key announced the boost to school sport funding yesterday, saying money cut from "social marketing" campaigns such as the multimillion-dollar Push Play and Mission On campaigns which combined healthy eating and physical activity messages was better used on school sports teams and equipment.
The funding is spread over four years, with $24m going to primary schools, $21m to secondary schools and $37m to sports clubs and community groups through new regional sports trusts.
The extra money to schools works out at about $13 a child at primary school level and $20 a child at secondary school level.
Mr Key said it recognised that sport had "undeniable benefits" in terms of physical fitness, teamwork and leadership. "Getting more Kiwi kids involved at school level can lead to a lifetime of involvement in organised sport."
The money will be paid to schools by the Education Ministry on a per pupil basis, the only requirement being that they use the funds to promote sport.
Principals Federation president Ernie Buutveld said the programme opened the door to greater involvement by communities in their local school sports.
It would also benefit rural schools, or schools located away from facilities who had found travel and transport to be a barrier to greater participation in sports.
But Labour MP Chris Hipkins said there was nothing to stop schools pocketing the extra money if they were already putting funds into sport, or pouring the money into better uniforms and coaching for their high performance sports teams, rather than spending it on getting more children into physical activity.
"It's basically putting all your eggs in the sports basket and ignoring the fact that a bunch of kids actually don't do sports, won't do sport, no matter how hard you try and push them.
"By cutting all of the other programmes they might have been interested in you're basically writing them off."
But the plan had the backing of Olympic champion Sir John Walker. "I would hate for these kids to get to the age of 25 and say, `I never participated in sport'."
* One in 12 Kiwi children (8.3 per cent) are obese.
* A further 20.9 per cent are overweight.
* New Zealand has the third-highest rate of obesity in the world (26.5 per cent) after the US (34.3 per cent) and Mexico (30 per cent).
- The Dominion Post