Sport New Zealand's new community and recreation manager wants a strong grassroots framework improved to monitor 'weekend warriors' and better measure the Crown entity's financial accountability.
Four weeks into the job, former Sport Canterbury head Geoff Barry has outlined key philosophies in engaging the recreational community and ensuring accountability for the taxpayer funding awarded to national sport organisations (NSOs).
"It's fair to say I see a really strong framework in place in terms of strategy and process," Barry said.
"What's key is enhancing the connectivity between plans and the people doing the work. I think we can up our game in terms of supporting national and regional sport organisations."
Earlier this year the Auditor General demanded improvements to Sport NZ's "performance information and reporting" for better accountability.
"Sport NZ noted our findings and recommendations, and said it would endeavour to make improvements," read an April statement from the Auditor General's office to Government Administration chair Ruth Dyson.
Barry is yet to go through the Auditor General's review and recommendations but said while monitoring the recreational sector is more difficult than that of high performance, more details are emerging through research and surveys.
Inevitably however, challenges remain in the sector, including how Sport NZ can measure the recreational habits of individuals who elect not to be part of clubs.
"I haven't had chance to read the AG's report just yet but I have not been brought in to directly address that criticism - more improve relationships and connections between Sport NZ and national and regional sports organisations," Barry said.
"Community sport is harder to gauge than gold medals. But there's an increasing amount of information available.
"It's a very hard thing to measure because there's a lot who take part in sport outside the mandate of their national structure.
"Some people don't want community engagement, rather to go off and do their thing."
A prime example of that is surfing. While boasting a community of around 200,000 active participants, a very small number, around 2000, are subscribed club members.
Not only does that low membership make it tough for Sport NZ to monitor the habits of the surfing community, but it also raises questions around community mandate and the grounds on which a national body can apply for Crown funding.
"Those are darn good questions. There's a very clear process NSOs are required to follow when it comes to accessing funding," Barry said.
"Surfing, like swimming, golf, cycling and a number of other sports, has a very high participation rate but relatively small memberships.
"Funding requests in those cases involves asking an NSO how they're going to connect with the greater mass. Their plans need to have an appreciation of their community.
"Most of our investment, in terms of community sport, is focussed through national sports organisations who deliver downstream into their sport.
"The local triathlon club, for example, can't come to us and apply for funding. It has to be at a national level with a view to supporting downstream.
"Increasingly, that appears something that we need to look at. I absolutely agree with the need for accountability and using public money for the best advantage.
"It's fair to say that will be a key conversation through the next strategic planning process.
"It's a hard thing to put strong accountabilities around but it helps us monitor how many people are doing recreational sport on their owns terms and whether we're having an impact.
"Some of our targets are about growing the number of people getting involved in recreational sport and it's very hard to influence in cases where there's no connection to formal sport or clubs.
"I think also the media plays an important part in reporting what happens in recreational sport and the challenge for me is how I can help influence the sector, increase participation and help ensure accountability."
- Sunday Star Times
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