The future strategic direction for the play, active recreation and sport sector in Northland is now a lot clearer with the near completion of Kokiri ai te Waka Hourua, the new 2021-31 regional strategy for play, active recreation and sport in Tai Tokerau.
Undertaken as a collaborative project between the Northland Sport Coalition, Sport Northland, the four Northland Councils, Te Kahu o Taonui (the Iwi Chair's Collective) and Sport NZ, the completed strategy provides a high-level strategic framework to guide future decision-making for play, active recreation and sport in Tai Tokerau. The primary funders of the strategy were Northland Regional Council and Sport NZ, with Far North and Kaipara District Councils also contributing.
It is envisaged that the strategy and the insights it contains will help guide the sector's future approach and programme of work. By working in a collaborative manner, a view of the regional priorities for future play, active recreation and sport has been developed. It is intended this will help guide regional sports organisations, councils, active recreation organisations and relevant funding agencies across Te Tai Tokerau in their decision-making. It will also help the sector as a whole be better informed as to what the needs, rather than wants, are across the region.
The vision for the strategy is 'Keeping Te Tai Tokerau moving in partnership, using our tikanga (way of doing things) to guide how we act now and in the future.' This vision reflects a double meaning of keeping Northlanders moving as well as the sector moving forward in partnership, rather than in isolation.
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First and foremost, the strategy looks to create a bi-cultural future for play, active recreation and sport in Te Tai Tokerau, with the name (Kokiri ai te Waka Hourua) reflecting a desire to move forward under the waka hourua (double-hulled canoe/waka) partnership, allowing people to give effect from a tangata whenua (iwi/hapu/marae/whanau) approach and a tangata tiriti (people of the Treaty/non-Maori) approach.
The strategy provides a snapshot of the current situation in the region, including key demographics, participation trends, challenges, opportunities and advantages. Some of the key challenges include declining volunteerism, membership retention (including youth drop-off and youth leaving the region), funding and operational sustainability, affordability and accessibility for participants, facility distribution and quality throughout the region, centralisation of competitions and facilities, the fact that active recreation and play are not 'organised' and do not have a voice and that there are skill gaps within the sector in volunteer and paid roles.
Correspondingly, the mainstream opportunities identified included better recruiting, upskilling and supporting of volunteers, more multi-use facilities, maximising connection with the natural environment, working in partnership (both within and outside of the sector), changing the way the sector is funded, having local facilities that meet basic needs, more community driven approaches and increasing informal, casual participation opportunities.
Opportunities for Māori included reflecting the whakapapa/history of areas in parks and facilities, taking ownership of, and working with, the people to maintain and look after parks and local spaces that fall in their boundaries, having appropriate names of spaces and places that reflect the community, sharing a Māori approach (whānau-centric) marae model for volunteerism and governance, developing marae to include provisions for more participation and reconnecting to Maori culture through play, active recreation and sport.
The strategy also provides direction on matters important to spaces and places and facilities at the regional level, a district level and also a local level. In doing so the strategy reviewed and updated the 2014 Northland Sports Facilities Plan and for the first time ever is producing spaces and places plans for both the Far North district and the Kaipara district (the Whangarei district completed their spaces and places plan in 2020).
The strategy, and the two district plans, are due for completion by July/August and will be launched sometime after this.