Part 2: Statutory functions and changing priorities

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

In this Part, we describe SPARC’s delivery of its statutory functions and how changing strategic priorities altered what SPARC did to deliver these functions.

Delivering statutory functions

SPARC provided adequate evidence to demonstrate that it was carrying out its functions2 under section 8 of the Act to promote, encourage, and support physical recreation and sport. Since it was set up in 2003, SPARC has carried out a range of work to fulfil its statutory functions. In the past seven years, SPARC has targeted different functions at different times.

Two of SPARC’s functions under the Act are promoting and encouraging participation from specific demographic groups. Under the Act, SPARC is expected to encourage participation in physical recreation and sport by Pacific peoples, women, older New Zealanders, and people with disabilities.3 It is also expected to promote and support physical recreation and sport in a way that is culturally appropriate to Māori.4

Although these functions have guided SPARC’s work with different demographic groups, SPARC has not limited its work to these groups – for example, young people are a current focus. SPARC had a broad focus on encouraging sport and physical recreation opportunities for all. SPARC considered that this inclusive approach would cover the groups specified in the Act.

Our assessment of SPARC’s performance against these functions found that Māori and people with disabilities had been the focus for much of SPARC’s work with the groups specified in its Act.

At the time of our audit, SPARC did not have any specific work targeting the other groups mentioned in the Act, such as women, older New Zealanders, and Pacific peoples. However, SPARC was planning some work on women and sport. It had invested in research examining Pacific peoples’ perceptions and experiences of sport, and barriers and enablers for participation, to better promote and target sporting opportunities to meet needs. The Push Play programme (on hold at the time of our audit) has also included some targeting of different groups mentioned in the Act at various times.

SPARC told us that it will be working with the organisations it funds to ensure that community programmes encourage participation from the groups specified in the Act.

It is appropriate that SPARC prioritises how it delivers its functions and the groups it targets through its work. However, if SPARC is relying on mainstream programmes to meet the needs of groups specified in the Act, it needs to be sure that these programmes meet the needs of these groups. This means ensuring that it has adequate information on the participation rates of these groups. We noted that SPARC’s information on the participation rates of different groups was variable. Some information was available from national surveys but SPARC did not have data to understand its influence on longer-term trends in participation. This situation was similar for the general population as well. SPARC did, however, plan to improve its information.

At the time of our audit, SPARC was introducing a performance measurement framework (discussed further in Part 3). As SPARC’s new performance measurement framework matures, SPARC should have a better range of information to understand trends in participation. We encourage SPARC to ensure that its performance measurement framework will provide useful information about how well the needs of targeted groups are being met so it can adapt and refine its work accordingly.

Changing strategic priorities

Changing strategic priorities meant that some functions had become less of a focus. Therefore, the work SPARC did to deliver these functions was also changing.

Until recently, promoting the health benefits associated with sport and physical recreation activity was a priority for SPARC. Its work on promoting health benefits was linked to two of its statutory functions.5 SPARC’s 2009 strategic plan noted that, since 2003, SPARC had worked in the wider physical activity and health space. The strategic plan refocused SPARC’s work on to core sport and physical recreation activity. This change of strategic direction meant that SPARC’s health promotion work became less of a priority. Several programmes were cancelled, some were transferred to other government agencies, and others were on hold pending decisions about the programme’s future.

These changes aligned with other strategic changes occurring at SPARC – in particular, SPARC’s delivery model. Increasingly, SPARC was moving away from providing programmes for other organisations to deliver. Instead, SPARC was using a more indirect, devolved approach of funding other organisations to achieve SPARC’s outcomes. SPARC expected that the organisations it funded would demonstrate a clear focus on sport and physical recreation activity, and that the programmes they provided would support SPARC’s functions and outcomes.

SPARC told us that, as its delivery model and strategic direction changed, it still had to consider how it fulfilled its statutory functions. It considered that it could deliver these in different ways. For example, funding arrangements could allow for sport and recreation organisations to continue promoting physical activity objectives for other government agencies such as the Ministry of Health. SPARC had work under way examining the value of sport and the potential benefits from sport. This was a more indirect way of promoting the benefits of physical activity.

Although we were satisfied that SPARC was fulfilling its statutory functions, we noted some tension between some functions (specifically those related to promoting health benefits associated with physical activity) and Government priorities. We encourage SPARC to be mindful of this and to ensure that it continues to adequately deliver its statutory functions.

2: The Appendix lists SPARC’s functions under the Act.

3: Section 8(g) of the Act.

4: Section 8(f) of the Act.

5: Section 8(c) and 8(k) of the Act.

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