Sport and recreation big bucks in Nelson

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The sport and recreation sector contributes more than $149 million annually to the Nelson and Marlborough economies, employs more than 1500 people and gets almost 90 per cent of the population participating in healthy activities, according to a newly released report.

However, while it delivers vital economic and social benefits to the top of the south region, the sector’s impact is waning as fewer people exercise, opting instead for more sedentary lifestyles dominated by new technology.

The Lincoln University report into the economic value of sport and recreation to the region found that the sector contributed $149.3 million or 2.5 per cent to gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012-13 compared to $197.4m or 3.8 per cent of GDP in 2008-09.

This was despite the number of people working directly in the sector rising from 1356 in 2008-09 to 1512 in 2012-13. If those working in sport and recreation jobs outside the sector are included, the total increased from 1821 to 2028 people or 3 per cent of all employment.

Most of those jobs were in conservation parks and nature reserves, boatbuilding and repairs, sport and camping equipment retailing, gym and health and fitness centres and the operation of venues, grounds and facilities.

Over the same period the number of people taking part in sport and recreation remains very high but has fallen, mirroring trends here and overseas.

Just over 88.5 per cent young people aged 5 to 17 spent at least three hours per week in organised or informal sport and recreation activity in 2012-13, which compared favourably with the 94 per cent who took part in at least one activity during the year in 2008-09.

While sport participation by boys and girls and teachers at secondary school level remains below the national average, it has improved significantly since 2008-09.

However, among adults the drop off in participation is more pronounced, with 83 per cent of those over 18 taking part in at least one activity during the year in 2012-13 compared to 98 per cent four years earlier. This didn’t include walking or gardening.

To a lesser extent, the same trend can be seen among those volunteering, with the number falling from 36,000 in 2008-09 to 34,000 in 2012-13 and the hours they devote to their chosen sport or recreation dropping from 1.9m to 1.5m. Unsurprisingly, the market value of their contribution fell from $26.3m to $23.3m.

The report also tracks the amount of money invested in the sector by local government, with the Tasman, Nelson and Marlborough councils spending $11.2m on new facilities in 2012-13 compared to $30.7m in 2008-09 when Saxton Stadium was being completed. Nelson City Council led the spending on sport and recreation, investing more than $6m in 2012-13, almost double that of Marlborough District Council and over $5m more than Tasman District Council. This benefited the construction industry by $3.9m.

Sport Tasman chief executive Nigel Muir says the report is further evidence of the importance sport and recreation plays in the economy and the everyday lives of people in the region.

“But it’s much bigger than the economic impact, it’s about enriching lives and connecting communities.’’

But he questions whether enough is being done, given that almost 90 per cent of the community is involved.

“When you look at the enormous investment that goes into health and the alarming statistics on obesity, depression and diabetes, it begs the question why we don’t invest more resources at the top of the cliff.”

“Sport and recreation is not a solo solution but can make a huge difference to the vibrancy of our community which is why Sport Tasman exists to get more people, more active, more often.’’