Auckland Mayoral Candidate Conversation on sport and recreation generates keen discussion
More than 50 sport, recreation and community leaders recently attended a Mayoral Candidate Conversation spotlighting sport and recreation in Tāmaki Makaurau.
Hosted by Aktive and moderated by award-winning journalist and media relations expert Rawdon Christie, the event saw Viv Beck, Wayne Brown and Craig Lord go head to head in discussion. The conversation covered policies, plans and funding with themes including equity across the region, funding and facility strategies, and consultation processes run by Auckland Council. Efeso Collins was invited and confirmed but was unwell and unable to attend.
Aktive Chief Executive Jennah Wootten said the discussion was important in raising awareness of the impact and value of sport and recreation before voting opens for the upcoming local elections.
“Auckland Council is incredibly important to our sector and the Mayor has the potential to play a significant role to help us achieve our vision for Auckland to be the world’s most active city,” says Ms Wootten.
“COVID-19 has had a major impact on how active people are and continues to affect many of our sport and recreation settings. We have seen a decline in junior player numbers and, perhaps not surprisingly after a few very challenging years, our volunteer base has also been impacted.”
Ms Wootten adds: “The Mayoral Candidate Conversation was a unique opportunity for our sector to hear the Candidates’ position on sport and recreation and to put some tough questions to them, seeking their views on sector-related concerns including accessibility, facilities and funding.”
When asked if sport was a priority, Beck listed transport, congestion, crime, housing, infrastructure and accountability as top issues, adding “sport is about building a healthy society.” Brown stated: “sport isn’t as broken as some other sectors, and I congratulate it for this.” Lord’s position was “sport is a major priority given its link to wellbeing and health. The health and wellbeing of our citizens is critical, and we can’t ignore that.”
Both Beck and Lord stated current funding into the sport and active recreation sector is inadequate, while Brown was undecided. Lord also committed to retaining all of the green spaces currently available for Auckland, with Beck saying “that is certainly my desire” and Brown stating “I want to see more use of green spaces.”
When questioned on the draft Auckland Golf Investment Plan, all three identified flaws with Council’s current consultation system.
Summarising their respective positions on the sector, Beck said: “sport and recreation is an area people love. People don’t want to lose their parks, reserves and areas where children can play”, noting prioritisation of investment in facilities, equity and a need to understand Auckland.
Brown also referred to facilities in his statement saying they don’t get used enough, as well as identifying opportunities – “getting men’s sports and women’s sports together in the same facility is a great idea.”
Lord commented: “I think sport is a core service for the city – we have to work with the sports to provide the facilities and the access.”
Candidate responses may have varied, providing great food for thought for the sector and voters, however the significance of the numbers around sport and recreation in Auckland are evident. Over one million Aucklanders are active each week, supported by over 300,000 volunteers who contribute more than 22 million hours of their personal time per annum, worth $337.3 million, to keep the sport and recreation sector moving (ACW Auckland City Report 2019, Portas Consulting).
“Sport and recreation are crucial in the lives of Aucklanders, particularly our tamariki and rangatahi. It is the young people of our region who are relying on us to get this right and there is a significant equity issue we need to focus on,” says Ms Wootten.
“We are committed to working with Auckland Council, the new Mayor and elected members to advance mahi that supports sport and recreation in a growing, increasingly diverse Tāmaki Makaurau. These leadership positions in our city are critical, and we encourage all Aucklanders to find out about these potential leaders and have their say via the voting process.”