Part 1: Introduction

Sport and Recreation New Zealand: Improving how it measures its performance.

In this Part, we discuss:

The purpose of our audit

We carried out a performance audit to examine the effectiveness of Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) in improving New Zealanders’ participation in sport and physical recreation.

SPARC is the Crown entity responsible for sport and physical recreation. It was set up to promote, encourage, and support sport and physical recreation. SPARC supports high performance sport, but it also has strong interests in supporting community sport and physical recreation. Under the Sport and Recreation New Zealand Act 2002 (the Act), SPARC has 14 functions that support its overarching responsibility (see the Appendix).1

We were interested in SPARC’s effectiveness in increasing participation because this receives less public attention than SPARC’s role in supporting high performance sport. SPARC’s work in community sport and increasing participation has the potential to have the greatest effect on the public.

SPARC promotes, encourages, and supports sport and physical recreation by:

  • providing policy advice on sport and physical recreation;
  • “investing” (this is SPARC’s term for the funding it provides) in sports and physical recreation organisations, local authorities, schools, and iwi-based organisations;
  • providing capability support and resources to sport and recreation organisations;
  • working with other government agencies; and
  • providing research, education, and examples of good practice to organisations it works with, as well as to the public.

In 2009/10, SPARC invested more than $70 million to promote, encourage, and support sport and physical recreation. SPARC invested $35 million in community sport and recreation programmes, and $38 million in high performance sport. Current areas of focus include creating opportunities for young people, supporting clubs, and improving resourcing of high performance sport. Recently, the Government announced further funding for high performance sport. Over the next three years, the annual funding for high performance sport will increase to more than $60 million.

How we carried out our audit

We planned to assess SPARC’s delivery of its statutory functions and then examine relevant programmes and activities to see whether they were effective in increasing participation in sport and physical recreation.

We assessed whether SPARC was carrying out its 14 functions under the Act using a mix of document review, interviews with SPARC staff , and observation of SPARC’s contract management system.

As our work progressed, it was clear that SPARC’s changing strategic priorities and delivery model altered what SPARC did to fulfil its functions. We also identified that there was limited information on the broader effect of SPARC’s activities on participation levels. This combination of changing strategic priorities and lack of information about the effectiveness of SPARC’s activities meant there was little value in us further assessing SPARC’s programmes to determine their effectiveness in increasing participation.

SPARC was already aware of the need to improve its performance measurement work and was introducing improvements. We considered that this work was critical for SPARC to demonstrate its effectiveness. We decided to focus on this, and report on it in more detail, because it supports our focus on this aspect of transparency and accountability, and because it could be useful for other government agencies.

Our views on SPARC’s work to improve its performance measurement were informed by further discussion with SPARC staff , examining relevant documentation, and considering good practice guidance on performance measurement and reporting.

What we did not audit

The audit did not examine:

  • specific programmes provided by SPARC because, due to changing strategic priorities, several programmes were cancelled, transferred to other government agencies, or on hold pending decisions about the programme’s future delivery;
  • whether SPARC’s activities supported other government agencies in achieving their outcomes, such as improved health or reduced crime; and
  • SPARC’s priorities for funding or decisions on funding allocations.

1: Further information on the range of SPARC’s work is available at

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