Barriers preventing Northland youth pursuing physical activity have been reduced for some after Sport NZ teamed with a children's charity to provide funding.
Sport NZ and Children's Charity Variety have launched a two-year partnership providing $2.15m to reduce financial barriers to sport, active recreation and play for those in hardship in Northland and Auckland.
The initiative is part of the Government's Covid $264.6m Sports Recovery Package announced in the 2020 Budget. Three thousand children and young people aged 4-18 on the Variety's Kiwi Kid Sponsorship living in Auckland or Northland are eligible to receive the new Active Me – Kia Tū fund. The support is application-based and Variety currently has 512 sponsored children in Northland eligible to apply.
Taipa Area School has 28 successful applicants who will benefit. Each student has been granted $300 per year to help access sport and active recreation. The funds can be used to help pay for new gear, registration fees, uniforms and other associated costs.
Taipa Area School deputy principal David Lowe said the biggest barrier for many of the 335 students at the decile two school was travel.
"Because we're so isolated and the students are spread across a wide area, for example the (Karikari) Peninsula, our biggest issue is access and (the funding) can support whānau with fuel vouchers.
"(The funding) is absolutely wonderful. It just opens so many doors for them with new experiences within the community such as sports they can't do at school like boxing, weight training, aerobics and boot camp. It will also help pay the subs for rugby and soccer."
Many of the students also enjoyed swimming and tennis and a by-product of gaining access to all these activities was the social interaction.
"The majority of people in clubs are really good role models in the community so it's fantastic as part of our school values are positive outcomes, respect and team work. That's what we can control in our school. However, this is giving students opportunities to continue with those values in the community, which I imagine lots of clubs, societies and sports groups encourage as well so it's just a great opportunity for our students and their wellbeing."
Variety provides targeted and flexible support to children and young people across New Zealand, working alongside schools, community agencies, social workers, and healthcare professionals to identify Kiwi kids in need. The programmes provide funding for essentials (such as warm bedding and school uniforms), access to extra-curricular activities (such as school camp or swimming lessons), and one-off support for additional needs (such as medical and mobility equipment).
The pilot is focused on Auckland and Northland due to these regions' high concentration of whānau experiencing financial hardship. The fund is available to be accessed over two years (2021 and 2022) with an evaluation assessing whether it can be extended in future years and to other regions.
Sport NZ's 2019 research found that between ages 12-14, young people from the least deprived areas spend 90 minutes more each week being physically active compared with those from the most deprived areas (12.7 hours compared with 11.2 hours). The study also identified that cost and lack of transport are significant barriers to participation for young people from high deprivation areas.
Sport NZ chief executive Raelene Castle says Covid has prompted Sport NZ to think beyond traditional investment approaches to ensure much-needed funds are getting out into the community.
"We know that tamariki and rangatahi who are active are more likely to become healthy active adults, but sadly not all young people have access to the same types of opportunities. Sport NZ has made it a priority to ensure recovery funding is getting to those that need it most, and the wellbeing of our young people is a priority.
"We are excited about this two-year pilot with Variety and seeing what it can achieve."
Variety CEO Susan Glasgow said, "Since 2013 our Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme has given thousands of kids access to the same opportunities as others. This partnership with Sport NZ enables us to make a real focus of getting these kids into physical activity and realising the value that brings in terms of physical health, mental health and social connectivity.
"Young people are our future and this is a great opportunity to stop cost being a barrier to being active with friends and family. We believe this partnership will make a huge difference to the lives of the families we work with."