Despite the air of domesticity that clings to the Prime Minister, she and her subjects clearly live in different worlds.

She displayed that again last week when she beamed into the cameras as Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson announced that the taxpayer will fork out $10 million over the next three years to give girls and women the chance to be the best they can be through sport.

Offence might be taken by those who know that kids dropping out of organised sport is not a purely female phenomenon. Boys do it too, but then boys have the best of everything, so it's only fair that girls should get special treatment.

What this ridiculous gesture ignores, however, is that kids' sport is expensive, in terms of time and money. Countless kids, boys and girls, miss out because their parents can't afford to give them those opportunities, can't be bothered, or have other priorities. Like putting petrol in the car.

'Just how a $10m campaign is going to enthuse kids, and encourage their parents to support them, isn't immediately obvious. The better tactic, surely, would be have a quiet word with the media, which have enormous capacity to inspire kids to dream of fame and glory.'

Ms Ardern might understand this when comes the time to cart her daughter hither and yon twice a week for training and on Saturdays to play whatever game it is that offers her the best opportunity to be the best she can be.

When it's her turn to cart the team to its match day venue, when she launders the kids' kit, when she whips up lunch for the visiting team, when she touts raffle tickets at the supermarket to pay for a bus, when she starts spending Saturdays on cold, wet, muddy sidelines cheering on a team that has to be reminded which direction it should be going in.

Despite all that time and money, her daughter might well decide at some point that she has better things to do. Like get an education, earn a living, or raise kids of her own. She might well turn out to be one of the vast majority who enjoy sport but have no special talent, or passion. Running around on a Saturday is undoubtedly a good thing to do, for lots of reasons, but for many, other interests and demands will inevitably intervene.

Just how a $10m campaign is going to enthuse kids, and encourage their parents to support them, isn't immediately obvious. The better tactic, surely, would be have a quiet word with the media, which have enormous capacity to inspire kids to dream of fame and glory.

Remember when our basketball team took the world championship by storm some years ago, and wherever you looked kids were dribbling and shooting? Remember the youthful football boom when the All Whites made the football World Cup finals? It is sporting success, not government advertising campaigns, that fires children's imaginations.

Mind you, that doesn't happen if the media don't do their bit.

You could be forgiven for not knowing that the Junior Olympics are under way in Buenos Aires. You could also be forgiven for not knowing that last week New Zealand won in individual gold and a team silver in the triathlon. For some reason our media aren't interested. (Sky has the Games on a pop up channel, but that won't be attracting much of an audience).

How is the women's NPC going? Want to watch New Zealand's women's cricket team in action? Get Sky. Chances are the local media won't even give us the results.


TVNZ's evening news consistently gives us more pictures of English football and American basketball than it does of all but the most elite men's sport in this country. Perhaps it would be different if CNN covered it for them and gave them its images cheap.

Television says it doesn't cover women's sport because people don't want to watch it. Perhaps people don't watch it because they can't.

Whatever, the media have a much greater ability to get kids outside than the government ever will. This $10m is just more of our money being flushed down the pan.

But it's only money. And eye-watering amounts of it are being wasted. Last week the Taxpayers' Union gave us some small idea of just how much is being squandered when it presented its inaugural Jonesie Waste Awards (named for the Far North's own Shane Jones, who some see as presiding over the mother of all slush funds).

There were awards for local and central government, in celebration of what the Taxpayers' Union described as the best of the worst of waste, greed and graft, fraud and flagrancy. And the sheer scale of "troughing" wasn't the only criterion for nomination; some smaller extravagances made the shortlist because of their "absolute absurdity or how they encapsulate a corrosive culture of frivolous waste."

The local government award went to the Auckland Council, which reportedly spent $91,742 culling goats in the Hunua Ranges. When it was all over, a meticulous tallying of dead goats came up with the grand total of — zero. Not one goat died. Not even of fright.


It is not possible to calculate the value of that expenditure in terms of dollars per goat, but clearly the Hunuas are the place to be for those that want to live a long and happy life, unmolested by humans.

There was some stiff opposition though. The Christchurch City Council spent $1.25m on a seven-metre touch screen for its new library, then refused to divulge that information; the Auckland Council spent $260,000 on a 2.4-metre mirror in the central city, which cracked a week after it was unveiled; and Auckland Transport spent $4m on a city cycleway, which hardly anyone uses, and is now spending up to $35m fixing it.

The central government nominees included Callaghan Innovation, which spent $1,141,230 on 'entertainment' and gifts including "boozy" dinners, drag queens and pedometers for staff, in the four years to 2017; Inland Revenue, which paid $40,000 for the online publication of a series of articles on 'Tax Heroes,' promoting the tax system and compliance; and the Ministry of Social Development, which spent $150,000 developing a video game to teach people how to run a business.

The winner, however, was the New Zealand Film Commission, which paid American producers of the children's TV show Power Rangers $1.6 million to include references to New Zealand, such as a plot involving a pavlova.

At least Mr Robertson's $10m for girls' and women's sport has a noble goal attached. He wants to see more women engaged in sport governance.

It would be a waste of breath to point out that quotas, in any field, tend to be counter-productive in that they devalue the accomplishments of those amongst the chosen ones who achieve by merit, talent and hard work. Mr Robertson knows this, or he would be trying harder to achieve gender equity in Cabinet, wouldn't he? A tick over 30 per cent doesn't seem to be a very good effort.


Perhaps he's sensible enough to believe that gender isn't the best basis for promotion to Cabinet; recent events would certainly support that. But no one should take his call for gender equity in sports administration seriously until the government does something about the most glaring, and damaging, example of imbalance of them all.

Perhaps Education Minister Chris Hipkins can find a lazy $10m for an advertising campaign to lure men back to teaching. That would do more for today's kids than anything Mr Robertson can think of.