By Bridget Gourlay
Serious money has been invested in sport by the Government in the last year, some of it going directly to schools.
In June, the Government announced it would establish a new High Performance Institute to oversee investment in elite sport and to foster a culture of excellence. A sum of $15 million will be going towards the expansion of the Millennium Institute, which will become the National Training Centre for High Performance Sport.
From July this year, there will be a $1.2 million contestable fund available for investing in outdoor recreation. SPARC has paid for this fund, which aims to increase long-lasting participation in outdoor recreation, with an initial focus on youth.
A year ago, the Government announced it would spend $82 million on the Kiwisport initiative. A cool $45 million is being spent on direct funding for schools and another $37 million is going to regional partnerships, like clubs, to support sport for school-aged children.
Prime Minister John Key says he believes in putting funds from the back office to the frontline. “Sport has undeniable benefits in terms of physical fitness, teamwork and leadership.”
But anti-obesity groups and the opposition have slammed National for claiming the investment in Kiwisport tackles health issues.
“So far the Government has cut funding to the Obesity Action Coalition, has threatened to remove ‘Fruit in Schools’, has dumped reducing obesity as a health target and has cut nearly $5 million from the diabetes ‘Let’s get Checked’ budget,” Labour health spokesperson Ruth Dyson says.
National’s reversal of the previous Government’s school junk food ban also drew Dyson’s scorn.
“John Key’s Government also rejected moves to have healthier food in our tuck shops because it was too politically correct to expect young people to be fed quality food.”
However, Fight the Obesity Epidemic spokesperson Dr Robyn Toomath says Kiwisport is excellent.
“Increasing physical activity is an excellent way of improving health for all individuals and sport has a role.”
But she says investment in sport will be worthless unless obesity is fought from all sides. Toomath wants unhealthy food and soft drinks banned from schools and junk food advertising aimed at children stopped.