INDEPENDENT NEWS

Beijing shows the need to transform sport in NZ

Published: Wed 20 Aug 2008 04:08 PM
Hon Jim Anderton
Progressive Party leader
20 August 2008Media Statement
Beijing shows the need to transform sport in New Zealand
The surge of pride from the success of our athletes at the Beijing Olympics shows sport contributes deeply to New Zealand's culture and sense of well-being, Progressive leader Jim Anderton said today.
He is calling for a transformation in support for sport in New Zealand, with a major injection of support for athletes and the development of events in New Zealand.
"This call is about supporting New Zealand's culture and our sense of national pride. New Zealanders are gripped and excited by our sporting success. We like to see ourselves on top of the world. But we can't expect to keep doing it on the cheap.
"Just as we backed a shot at the America's Cup, we should be prepared to back sports across the field. From our track stars, to our cyclists and rowers, to team sports not represented at the Olympics, we should be supporting our best and brightest young people to take on the world - and win.
"The cost would, on the face of it, be quite considerable, but only a fraction of the sums being bandied around as tax cuts for the highest-income New Zealanders at this year's election."
Jim Anderton said it could cost about $300m-$400m to build a prison and about $200m a year to run it.
"That's $2.5 billion over a decade for one prison. Compare that to the cost of investing in sport and it's pretty clear where our priorities should lie."
The Progressive Party leader is proposing a three-stage sports transformation project.
1. Athlete development scholarships.
It would cost $50 million dollars a year to pay a thousand athletes an annual scholarship of $50,000 a year to help with their equipment and travel to international competition, as well as ensure they had an income to support themselves while they trained. You could have three thousand athletes in a development programme for $150 million a year.
The allocation of scholarships could be determined by factors such as participation, so that sports are incentivised to attract more participants; success in the sport; its international competitiveness and the viability of the athlete compared to those in other sports.
2. Sports development programme
A similar sum invested into a major development programme would help sports access the world's best international quality expertise and equipment.
Sports could invest in top quality training facilities, pay the salaries needed to bring world leading experts and coaches to New Zealand and give New Zealand coaches and administrators access to the world's best development programmes.
Athlete development should be combined with a cherry-picking programme of actively touting for talent in countries with reduced support for sport and bringing that talent to New Zealand.
3. Events
A key ingredient in success is regular exposure to top level competition. It shows athletes what they need to do to make the top grades, gives them experience in the white heat of world class competition and inspires others to follow.
A dedicated international sports events fund should be established to attract some major international competitions to New Zealand and support some regional competitions in New Zealand to reach a level capable of bringing world-class competitors to New Zealand. Regular exposure to top-level competition at home will help push kiwi sportspeople to another level of success.
Increased support for major events could be tied to an increased emphasis on free-to-air tv. Progressives have been calling for more of New Zealand's top sports events to be screened on free television so that young New Zealanders who don't have pay television can watch our success. If the taxpayer is funding major sports events to a much greater level, in recognition of the cultural contribution made by sports success, then some of the money could be tied to an agreement to sell rights to events to free to air television - just as the Olympics require.
Jim Anderton said the Olympics have shown that sport in New Zealand is in good shape and generally well run.
"But we are also seeing how much potential we have to go even further if we make a major national commitment.
"A transformation on the scale required would need to be phased in over as much as a decade, because otherwise there wouldn't be the skills and capacity to use the money wisely. It would probably need widespread, multi-party consensus and commitment.
"The amount of money put into sports in New Zealand has been largely determined by economic factors - how much we get back as a nation for the money we invest. But the Beijing success and the pride New Zealanders take in sports shows that our sports are contributing to out culture and our sense of national pride at a much deeper level.
"When I say to young people that I don't support drugs and alcohol being more widely available because I want them to be all they can be and maximise their talents, they ask me where the policy support is for that. We tax them for their education and, despite substantial increases over the past nine years, New Zealand pays less than we should towards sports and the arts. If we want kids to do more than get wasted, we need to make a priority out of giving them better opportunities.
"Would New Zealanders rather put the money into helping the kids have a go, or into cleaning up the mess when we leave them to their own mischief?"
ENDS

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