North's into sport for fun of it

By Antonia Anderson

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Northland is leading the way when it comes to outdoor sports and recreation, with the region's fine weather and accessibility cited as two of the main reasons.

The Sport NZ-commissioned Gemba sports and entertainment survey results show Northland residents have the highest rates of outdoor sporting activity in New Zealand, yet are at the bottom of the table for "competition and achievement".

Out of the 12,000 people surveyed, Northlanders clearly have a love for the land as we were ranked as the highest region for "relaxation for motivation".

But we are the country's least-driven competitors with their desire for winning ranked lowest in New Zealand at 9 per cent.

Results show that Northlanders also topped the country in sport passion levels, consumption, participation, volunteering and sponsor support.

The two main barriers to sports participation in Northland were cost and time, but we also had the highest rate for participating with families at 59 per cent.

Sport Northland chief executive Brent Eastwood says many of Northland's top outdoor sports are individual and are utilised for recreational purposes rather than competitive motives.

"They're doing it because they love it and our climate allows us to spend a lot of time outside."

Northland's geography, weather and wealth of accessible coastline allow locals to lead a more active outdoor lifestyle than the rest of the country, says Mr Eastwood.

"Even though Northland is a diverse region, our sense of togetherness is heightened by our 'isolation' from the rest of New Zealand, by our climate, and by our geography," he says.

The Northern Advocate's sports editor and two-time gold medallist at the Paralympics, Cameron Leslie, says that when it comes to competitive pursuits, many Northlanders lack the financial support to pursue a sporting career.

"There are a lot of people who do sport competitively but if and when selection into a representative team comes around, often it is a case of choosing sport over work," says Mr Leslie.

"I don't necessarily believe we're bad at sport, I think we're a bit more real as people and have different priorities to other regions."

Local waka ama champion Richard Pehi agrees Northlanders participate in sport as more of a recreational hobby and that the access to "our spectacular natural resources" is what makes Northland's outdoor sports scene so unique.

Mr Pehi suggests the region could use Northland's natural resources to our advantage by creating more outdoor competitive sports.

"I think we could probably do a lot more of a variety of outdoor sports," he says.

"You have to go out of the region if you want multi-sports."

Mr Eastwood says: "We have the warmest and best weather in the regions. We value the outdoors and we get out there and we participate."

The survey also shows that people who live south of Whangarei play more indoor sports.

Northland produced the lowest results for participation in indoor sports.

Mr Eastwood suggests this is because Northlanders prefer to embrace the natural elements of outdoor sporting activities.

- Northern Advocate

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