28 Jun 2022

Call for councils in Wellington to cut facility costs to boost participation in sports

9:50 am on 28 June 2022

By Lauren Crimp

Taking to the turf, court or field is a widely accepted rite of passage for New Zealanders. But for some, the price tag puts it out of reach.

A soccer ball in the foreground, with a team of student players in the background.

File photo. Photo: 123RF

In the capital, councils are under fire from a lobby group campaigning for lower facility costs, which they say makes up around 60 percent of clubs' fees.

Affordable Sports for Greater Wellington is made up of the regional hockey, rugby, basketball, football and cricket bodies, as well as College Sport Wellington.

Chair Lisa Jones wants councils to review facility charges.

"Every council's long-term plan mentions health and wellbeing as being vitally important and sport is intrinsically linked into that.

"Our communities are strongly feeding back to us that the cost of participating in sport is too much.

"The rise of the cost of living now makes these fees a real threat to participation in sport."

In a statement, Wellington City Council said it charged users 15 percent of the cost to provide sports fields, with ratepayers stumping up the rest.

The user pays bill jumps to 25 percent for recreation centres. For juniors, facilities are either free or discounted.

Jones said the group was not sure how it all added up, so it was also calling for further transparency.

"We would just like the council to sit down with us, have an independent review and we can go back to our community and be sure that what we're paying to participate in sport in Wellington is fair and equal."

Wellington Hockey had a participation fund so those who struggled to pay could apply for help, and other sports had similar initiatives, Jones said.

The facilities cost breakdown is complex and varied across the country, depending how councils approach subsidisation - so the hit to the back pocket depends on where people live.

A Sport New Zealand survey cited a 7 percent drop in weekly sport participation among young people in high deprivation areas between 2019 and 2021.

But it stayed stable in more affluent areas.

The survey also said higher proportions of Māori and Pasifika people identified cost as a barrier.

Jones said council candidates for the local body elections in the Wellington region should expect a call soon from codes, clubs, players and parents who would support candidates putting affordable sport first.

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