3 Mar 2016

Boatbuilding tops sport at top of South Island - study

5:22 pm on 3 March 2016

It is "bizarre" boatbuilding has come out at the top of a study on the value of sport and recreation in the top of the South Island, a Nelson City councillor says.

Torrent Bay lagoon in Abel Tasman National Park.

Torrent Bay lagoon in Abel Tasman National Park. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The government-backed study, which looked at data across 13 regions, showed boatbuilding and repair services were the largest contributor of sport and recreation industries to GDP in Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough.

The sector contributed $18 million a year to the regional economy, followed by nature reserves and conservation parks, and health and fitness centres.

Councillor Pete Rainey, who heads the city council's community services committee and is also founder of an annual classic boat show in the Nelson Lakes region, said he was surprised to see boatbuilding was bigger than national parks.

However, it also showed that a sport such as sailing, which often struggled to attract local authority support, was significant in the region.

"I find it quite bizarre and I am surprised," he said.

"I guess if you separated it out into professional or recreational boating, in terms of boatbuilding, that would be an interesting thing."

Mr Rainey said he had no answer as to why something such as mountainbiking, which was a burgeoning sport in the region and had generated growth in associated businesses, was not included.

RNZ News has approached report authors Sport New Zealand for comment but has so far not received a response.

"I guess it points to the fact boating is an expensive recreation - it's as simple as that. And interestingly, obviously a lot of people are doing it," Mr Rainey said.

It was an interesting study but he did not think it would have any bearing on what council's might choose to spend on sport and recreation.

Local authorities in Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough spent $11 million on new facilities in 2012-13. Operating expenditure increased from $13 million in 2004 to $26 million in 2013.

"Millions are spent on cricket or rugby, which I don't have a problem with that and it's great to do that, but on the other hand kids in our region might want to go sailing, yet there's zero, or very little input," Mr Rainey said.

"I've argued for some time that in a place like Picton or Nelson, it's the little port rats who want to go sailing who aren't necessarily wealthy people and you can buy a (small) yacht for $100."

Nelson City Council Mayor Rachel Reese today announced it had created a Community Services Committee, focused on sport and recreation.

The committee had an "extremely broad remit" and splitting it would relieve some of the workload as "significant growth" was forecast in sport and recreation.