Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Vote for National

Now, although the title is deceiving, I don't want to stir up anything.
I think sport and parliament should be as far removed as possible, bar funding.
But this seems to have been forgotten. By this, for those too lazy to click the link, I'm talking about National leader John Key's speech on sport at a lunch. I'd like to draw attention specifically to this:

"Take Sport and Recreation New Zealand (Sparc). This is the government agency charged with promoting physical activity and supporting elite athletes. Last year, Sparc had 86 full-time staff. Fourteen of those staff were paid more than $150,000 a year, while 47 of them earned more than $100,000 a year.

You would hope those staff were busy putting funds directly into regional sports trusts, clubs, and national sporting bodies. But no, almost a third of the money Sparc receives - $35 million in fact – never makes it outside the Wellington office....

An incoming National Government will have a look at all these programmes, regardless of which portfolio technically funds them, to ensure we get the balance right between funding promotional programmes and telling people to lead healthier lifestyles, and funding actual sports organisations with actual facilities at which sport is actually being played.

It's clear that with a firm sense of priorities, and a disciplined approach to taxpayer funds, National will be able to free up meaningful additional funding for schools and sports clubs. "

That's a very longwinded quote (but then again, it's a political speech) but what Key is saying without saying anything is that he wants to pull SPARC funding and shovel it into education. I have nothing against education, but what I have an issue with is that SPARC seems to be perceived as operating solely as an elite sport body. While it is true that SPARC operates for elite athletes, it also focuses on schools. In fact, if it wasn't for SPARC and the Kiwi Kids holiday program (the actual name escapes me) I would have only stuck with cricket and football, without experiencing any other sport.

It is my personal belief that where SPARC does not perform is in the middle sector. The majority of funding goes to world class atheletes and children, but the high-school and university age athletes have to seek sponsorship or have their school foot the bill (as I have personally experienced).

Now, neither party has released a policy on sport (a point which was noted by a caller, Graham, on BSport yesterday) but we know Labour has a strong commitment to sport (what with there being a Minister for the Rugby World Cup - I don't neccessarily agree with this, but nevertheless) while National appears committed to cutting sport funding... To fund tax cuts perhaps?

As I said, don't take this to be influencing your vote. I just want to draw attention to an overlooked issue.

What are your thoughts? Should sport be governed independently or should the Government have full control? Should SPARC be funded by the Government or seek money from the private sector?

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