While the Covid-19 lockdown created a spike in recreational and sporting activities the number is again on the decline with only half of the Waikato's adult population keeping physically active.

With stagnant growth in that number for the past 10 years, Sports Waikato has signalled a proposed transformational change in their organisation to get 75 per cent of the Waikato's population active in fitness and wellbeing.

Research by Sports Waikato shows that only 54 per cent of Waikato adults are regularly active in a way that positively impacts their health, but it also shows that 73 per cent of them have a desire to do get out more.

Sports Waikato announced the change to their structure this week, which includes the creation of new jobs and the disestablishment of other roles. The organisation currently employs 70 people and the changes could see up to 35 staff lose their jobs.

Sports Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper. Photo / Supplied
Sports Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper. Photo / Supplied

Despite losing $1.1 million in funding due to Covid-19, Sports Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper said the change was planned before the global pandemic.

"We are doing things right now where there is quite a bit of delivery focus, and we are trying to reach the needs of everyone in our region which is around 460,000 people," Cooper said.

"For us, we want to try and swing the dial on a delivery focus and rather than influencing the people, what we are doing now is we want to have far more influence with the decision makers and policy makers and we believe doing it that way we can get far more traction around impact.

"Not necessarily having a lot of delivery focus you are going to get the traction.

"The data hasn't changed since 2007 so we need to do things differently, and for us to get more impact we need to target these decision makers to make the change Rather than having a lots of good foot soldiers that go out and do activities for us.

"This transformation is not a reflection of staff performance, it is us needing to be stronger.

"We have a lot of different funders to make us tick and we want to be an expert at a higher political level. The questions will be how do we work with Hamilton City Council, or the Waikato DHB to support physical and sports movement from their perspective.

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"Over lockdown we saw some improvements as people were going outside for walks and cycling as there was nothing else to do, but it is sort of returning to normal now.


"People seem to want to go fast on life, and you saw during the lockdown that people had to adapt and they did get outside but ever since normality resumed people have been returning to their old ways of just sitting at home rather than continuing to be physically active."

Sport Waikato chairman Mark McCabe says the new approach is the culmination of a board-led review that began in August 2019. He says the goal is about forging a path to become an organisation that has a much larger, positive impact on the community.

"During this 11-month review, we've uncovered a system that doesn't currently meet the needs of Waikato people," McCabe said.


Cooper said there is a target to keep teenagers playing in sports, as currently after the age of 15 there is a major drop off.

"We believe particularly 12-18-year-olds is where we can make real change in physical activities, so that when they leave their teenage life they can continue to do physical activities in sports or recreation," Cooper said.


He said organised sports need to keep reinventing itself from the traditions of a Saturday morning sports game and needs to be more inclusive.

Sports Waikato will now consult with its staff over the proposed restructure before making a final decision in the coming months.