Sport NZ boss responds to auditor criticism

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 08:58 16/12/2012
Peter Miskimmin
WARWICK SMITH/Manawatu Standard
PETER MISKIMMIN: Sport NZ chief executive.

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Sunday Star-Times reporter Simon Plumb interviews Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin about responding to criticism from the Auditor-General, funding Kiwi sport and being accountable for taxpayer dollars.

PLUMB: Could you nutshell the critique of the Auditor-General's report earlier this year?

MISKIMMIN: In non-financial areas, they were looking for an improvement in our measurements and our monitoring. In that 12-month period it's gone from 'needs improvement' to 'good'.

PLUMB: When that critique came out, were you surprised?

MISKIMMIN: You need to understand we weren't uniquely on our own if you look at other organisations across Government. I think there were many who had that same 'needs improvement'. What Government is looking for is accountability for the investment made and we have moved from an independent report saying we needed improvement to good and we're satisfied with that. And, we would have done it anyway. Again, we're not unique in those areas.

PLUMB: The new annual report seems to emphasise a desire for national sport organisations to be more accountable and transparent, is that a fair reading?

MIKSKIMMIN: We want our NSOs to be more capable, and that capability comes from governance, leadership, management, systems and processes. But they're coming to us, we're not the driver of this, most sports want to improve. It's not about ranking sports, it's about identifying areas for development. Having seen example in Australia and the UK, I feel it's something we are doing well.

PLUMB: In the last year we've seen Alex Baumann appointed to CEO of High Performance Sport New Zealand and Geoff Barry appointed as Sport NZ general manager for recreational sport, who break down quite neatly to Sport NZ's two main arms. Have they had KPI's set based on what the Auditor-General was seeking?

MISKIMMIN: No, not at all. At the end of the day, high performance is measurable and the easier to measure of the two what with world championships and the Olympic Games. But we want to be accountable and are obviously investing taxpayer money. There is an issue around being very transparent and understanding delivering that. 

PLUMB: It seems tracking recreation is harder, as there are no gold medals and a lot of people who recreate but prefer to do so outside of a club membership environment?

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MISKIMMIN: I think it's far more complicated in the community sport space, without question. But that doesn't mean we don't hold ourselves to account. 

PLUMB: What are the economic impacts of the recreation sector? Alleviating health problems and such.

MIKSIMMIN: A number of years ago the board of Sport NZ, then Sparc, made a very conscious decision, not to move away from physical activity - which we believe is more to do with health - to sport for sport's sake. That's not to say we're going away from active recreation, but focussing more in sport and informal recreation as opposed to physical activity. That's not to say we're not part of the health agenda but our role is sport and providing more opportunity. That was a shift about four years ago.

PLUMB: Many sports are experiencing a decline in membership. How hard does that make tracking statistics, where money should go and whether it's being used in the right way?

MISKIMMIN: The club environment is still hugely important, but has challenges, without question. Sport needs to make it more attractive for the average consumer. It's about adapting and offering opportunity.

PLUMB: How do you asses how well funding has been used?

MISKIMMIN: Money is allocated and with is a contract for outcomes which are reviewed on an annual basis. 

PLUMB: How well would you evaluate that money is used at the moment?

MISKIMMIN: Clearly it's about being astute investors. On the community side it's about targeting sports which we think can grow. We are now far more discerning about where that money goes for community outcomes. We also tend to do more research around the impact on formalised sports.

PLUMB: We're Geoff Barry and Alex Baumann briefed in the Auditor-General's report?

MISKIMMIN: No, not at all. I think you may be playing too much on that report. It's one of those indicators around our processes. I'm more interested, as you would be, on the effectiveness of our investment. 

- Sunday Star Times

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