Jobs may be at stake over funding of NZ sport
The chances are some anxious folk are inhabiting High Performance Sport New Zealand and Sport New Zealand as the election result teeters.
Jobs could be at stake with coalition talks set to intensify between New Zealand First, National and Labour this week.
In simple terms, Sport NZ is responsible for sports participation and the control of government funding. HPSNZ is charged with helping New Zealanders triumph internationally.
During the election campaign, the Herald on Sunday asked parliamentary parties’ sports spokespeople whether HPSNZ and Sport NZ should be separate or combined entities.
Labour’s Trevor Mallard’s response was “combined”, while National’s Jonathan Coleman said the current arrangement works well.
“HPSNZ became a subsidiary of Sport NZ in 2011 to focus on preparing athletes to win on the world stage, with Sport NZ providing shared services,” said Coleman. “Since then, we have grown our medal count at every Olympic Games, from nine in 2008 to 18 in 2016.”
NZ First sports spokesman Clayton Mitchell opted for the status quo: “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”
As a supplementary, the parties were asked if it was more important to invest in grassroots or elite sport.
“The balance of funding has gone too far in favour of elite sport,” Mallard said. “Medals are important, but exercise and participation are more so. School and grassroots support, especially for coaching, needs a real boost.”
Coleman said you couldn’t have one without the other.
Mitchell was more aligned to the stance of National.
Sports policy might not be a dealbreaker but an amalgamation of HPSNZ and Sport NZ seems imminent under Labour. They will argue a prune is justified.
A year ago, the Herald revealed 85 employees of Sport NZ and HPSNZ were on salaries of more than $100,000 in 2015.
The story had Olympic champions Dame Valerie Adams, Mahe Drysdale and Jo Aleh advocating for ways athletes could access more sports funding, given they were ultimately accountable for performance.
Another key NZ First policy is to establish free-to-air sport on television for major events.
In January, NZ First leader Winston Peters told Newshub: “I’m not going to say we’re going to try to implement it — we will implement it.”
In March, Mitchell submitted a private member’s bill aimed at amending the Broadcasting Act so any game of “national significance” would be freely available.
National and Labour voted against the bill which would include major events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.