Political Party Responses to Recreation Aotearoa Questions

With the 2020 General Election looming, we put together six recreation based questions and distributed them to the major political parties vying for our votes this October.

Their responses to our questions are below. These have been provided verbatim to allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

The 2019 review of the Walking Access Act made 30 recommendations, many of which require legislation to be brought about. Is your party committed to supporting the Walking Access Commission and amending the Walking Access Act (2008) in the next term of parliament?

GREEN PARTY: The Green Party supports the work of the Walking Access Commission. Green Party policy relating to the Commission includes a commitment to 'report to Parliament within two years about whether there is a need for legislation to resolve issues and improve public access to land.' The recent review recommended legislative change, so we would move to amend the Act during our next term in line with our policy.

NATIONAL PARTY: The National Party would carefully consider the review and submissions and talk to stakeholders before committing to any legislative changes.


LABOUR PARTY: Being able to access the outdoors is an important part of the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. Accessing these environments improves our health, supports our cultural connection with the land, and provides an opportunity to share experiences with our friends and whānau.

We also know that the benefits of the outdoors are not always shared equally. The review of the Act found that certain groups experience barriers to access. We need to work to overcome as many of these barriers as we can and make sure there is greater equity of access. The report contains thirty recommendations and six technical changes, aimed at informing the subsequent formal policy process, which will include consultation on proposals for change. After this is completed, we will then decide on any changes to be made to the Act and to the work of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission. I look forward to seeing the Act and the Commission continue to support public access in our beautiful country.
ACT New Zealand - Wikipedia
ACT PARTY: New Zealand enjoys pristine locations for walking, hiking and tramping. The opportunity for New Zealanders and tourists to enjoy access to these tracks brings with it economic activity that supports local businesses and economies. We undertake to review the report and engage with stakeholders so that any changes proposed in the next Parliament deliver an optimized outcome for all New Zealanders.

The Government has budgeted $265m to be spent in the play, active recreation, and sport sector over the next four years, to ensure it remains viable and adapts in the wake of Covid-19. Does your party support the idea that this should be spent in a way that is proportional to participation in the different forms of physical activity NZers engage in?

GREEN PARTY: The Green Party's focus in the sports and recreation sector is to ensure accessibility to physical activity for all, equity between men's and women's sports, and sufficient funding for community sports that fixes the current inequities experienced in low-income communities. We support funding that achieves these ends and allows all people in Aotearoa to enjoy the many and varied recreational opportunities that exist on our shores.

NATIONAL PARTY: All activities that get people moving are important. It is also important that sports clubs and leagues that support rookies through to elite athletes have opportunities to receive funding. We wouldn't set out a blanket funding policy, rather, we would consider a flexible policy framework.


LABOUR PARTY: Labour has always believed that sport and recreation play a significant role in bringing communities together. COVID-19 saw much of the sectors funding dry up and put sports, particularly at a community level, under immense strain. That's why we moved to provide the support needed for sports at all levels to remain viable, get stronger and adapt. This included funding for short-term support to help sport and recreation organisations at all levels get through the initial impact of COVID-19, funding to help national and regional sports organisations make changes in order to operate successfully in the post-pandemic environment, including supporting new operating models, and funding for innovative approaches to delivering play, active recreation and sport into the future. Instead of funding proportional to participation, Labour will continue to provide funding across all of these areas, including support for women's sport and groups that are currently underrepresented in sport like people with disabilities, Māori and those from low socioeconomic groups.
ACT New Zealand - Wikipedia
ACT PARTY: All investment of public funds should be subject to a proper cost benefit and business case justification. Funding determined by proportional participation is an interesting idea but it is more important that public money is spent thoughtfully and carefully.

Swimming, fishing, and canoeing/kayaking are among the most popular forms of physical activity in New Zealand. In the past, Recreation/Wai tākaro was listed as a National Value in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM). Does your party agree that a specific reference to recreational access to freshwater should be included in the NPSFM and Recreation/Wai tākaro should be reinstated as a National Value?

GREEN PARTY: Yes, as appropriate according to relevant protocols and water protections. Green Party policy supports "ensuring that the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management is sufficient to restore freshwater quality", and the Green Party has long advocated for swimmable rivers in Aotearoa as crucial to the wellbeing of people and land. The strengthened NPSFW aims to ensure rivers and lakes are swimmable.

NATIONAL PARTY: Yes we agree freshwater should be included in the NPSFM and Recreation/Wai tākaro should be reinstated as a National Value. National's practical environmental agenda is about managing water effectively to support healthy rivers and lakes for recreation and cultural values, as well as for industries like tourism, primary production, and electricity generation. In Government, National took a collaborative approach with the Land and Water Forum and iwi putting in place the first national policy on freshwater that set specific national standards on nitrogen, phosphorous, phytoplankton periphtons, cynabacteria, ammonia, dissolved oxygen and E.coli. We increased by tenfold the investment in river and lake clean-ups totalling over $400 million and supported rural NZ and water infrastructure.


See TOP's Fresh Water Policy here.

LABOUR PARTY: Labour has released NPSFM 2020, which specifically provides for recreational access to freshwater. Human contact is one of the compulsory values in the new NPS 2020, and says:

"Human Contact: This refers to the extent to which an FMU or part of an FMU supports people being able to connect with the water through a range of activities such as swimming, waka, boating, fishing, mahinga kai, and water skiing, in a range of different flows or levels. Matters to take into account include pathogens, water clarity, deposited sediment, plant growth (from macrophytes to periphyton to phytoplankton), cyanobacteria, other toxicants, and litter."

The NPSFM requires particular attention to be paid to places where people are most likely to swim during summer, see attribute table 22 of the NPSFM. Also, clause 3.27 of the NPSFM requires regional councils to closely monitor primary contact sites for their risk to human health and their suitability for recreational activities.

ACT New Zealand - Wikipedia
ACT PARTY: Yes. Aquatic sports play a key role in many New Zealanders leisure and recreational activities and it's important that these freshwater spaces continue to be accessible to the public.

Conservation Management Strategies and National Park Management Plans are key determinants of how, when and where Recreation is undertaken on Public Conservation Land. They are required by the Conservation Act and the National Parks Act to be reviewed every 10 years. Currently, seven of the 16 Conservation Management Strategies, and eight of the 13 National Park Management Plans are out of date. How would your Party resource and direct the Department of Conservation to review Conservation Management Strategies and National Park Management Plans within the legal time frame?

GREEN PARTY: The Green Party in Government has ensured the biggest increase in DOC funding in decades with an additional $181m over four years in Budget 2018 and the DOC getting an additional $500m over four years as part of the $1.3bn Jobs for Nature programme. The New Zealand Conservation Authority is reviewing the way in which conservation management strategies are prepared. It needs reform so that the planning process is more agile, reviews are completed promptly and the documents are kept under active review.

NATIONAL PARTY: National is committed to acknowledging the benefits both socially and economically, of recreation activities on public land. We would modernise existing plans in order to create a more efficient consenting process and to allow for consideration of further opportunities for recreational and commercial activities, provided there is a net conservation benefit.

THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY: DOC has plenty of resource in head office - the question is whether they are using it to do the right things. TOP would certainly direct them to make this a focus.

LABOUR PARTY: Labour knows that outdoor recreation is an important part of life for many New Zealanders. Labour will continue to prioritise and support initiatives that ensure public access to our natural environment. While in government, we provided the largest funding boost for the Department of Conservation since 2002, delivering on our promise to significantly invest in conservation. This is allowing DoC restore its core capability and capacity, keep its statutory documents up to date, and turn around New Zealand's conservation crisis. Moving forward, we'll continue to improve public access to the outdoors, waterways, and coastline, including by investing in tracks, huts, and visitor infrastructure.

ACT New Zealand - Wikipedia
ACT PARTY: Firstly it is important to understand why the work public servants are paid to do hasn't been completed. Proper conservation is essential to our leisure and tourism industries and there needs to be accountability for the cause of the delays. ACT believes adequate resourcing of government entities is essential in order for them to support local communities to protect flora, fauna and wildlife. Under ACT's Conservation plans we will enable these entities to fund scientific advice from experts whose research will help formulate conservation and environmental management plans.

The ability to swim is a critical part of NZers ability to enjoy recreational opportunities. However, school pool closures, cost pressures and a weak curriculum requirement have resulted in around 75% of schools not able to provide the minimum recommended lessons for students. How would your Party empower the Ministry of Education and schools to ensure that New Zealand Children can safely enjoy water-based recreation?

GREEN PARTY: We think that swimming is important for all children given the access to and cultural value of water in Aotearoa - and would support moves through increased funding for school programmes or wider funding programmes to improve children's access to swimming lessons and water safety. The Green Party doesn't have specific policy in this area, but does say "options such as flexible pricing during the day in Council pools to increase usage in offpeak times, for facilities such as swimming pools and recreation, and sports centres is encouraged."

NATIONAL PARTY: We acknowledge that physical activity is vital for both our physical and mental wellbeing, and it's important that our children have access to water facilities at a young age to encourage their water safety knowledge, especially given that we are a coastal nation. We would look at how we can provide support by way of upgrading existing infrastructure to ensure these resources are fit for purpose and accessible to all children at a young age to develop these water safety skills. We would also consider ways in which we can make water safety and swimming lessons more affordable.

THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY: This is a serious issue, particularly given our high rate of drownings. Not every school will be able to afford a pool, but every town should have one. TOP would instruct local authorities to work with schools to ensure that all students have access to swimming lessons in their local area. TOP policy for greater funding of Local Authorities touches on this issue as well as many others.

LABOUR PARTY: Labour will uphold the commitment in the New Zealand Curriculum that all children get the opportunity, through school, to learn basic aquatic skills by the end of Year 6. It shouldn't matter where in the country you are, school swimming lessons are a kiwi tradition - they help our kids to learn to swim and learn water safety rules that can save their lives.

Schools can provide this opportunity in their own school pool, at a neighbouring school pool, or through a community facility. Many schools choose to use community pools because they operate year round and provide access to trained instructors. As part of Labour's investment fund to help state school to upgrade their facilities, around a hundred school are putting nearly $6 million into school pools. Schools and young people are also benefiting from 'shovel-ready' investments in the community, such as the new pool and fitness centre in Naenae and renovating the swimming pool in Hokitika. These projects are also creating jobs, and are an important part of New Zealand's post-COVID economic recovery.

ACT New Zealand - Wikipedia
ACT PARTY: As a small island nation that has a long history of participation in water sports it's important that children know how to swim as both a safety and physical health measure. ACT would look at why our curriculum is falling short in this area.

An overnight school camping experience in the great outdoors has served as a gateway for young people in New Zealand to enjoy recreation in the outdoors and develop an appreciation of our environment. Cost pressures, a lack of initial teacher education in Outdoor Education and a lack of targeted funding for schools have resulted in a dilution and reduction of what can be a seminal experience for Tamariki and Rangitahi. What will you Party do to ensure that every NZ primary school pupil is afforded the opportunity to have an overnight school camping experience in the great outdoors?

GREEN PARTY: The Green Party supports "adequate funding for local and regional councils, schools, community trusts, Māori organisations and other groups providing recreational and sporting facilities and activities." The current Government's school donations scheme was a step in the right direction in this regard, removing pressure on parents to fund these activities - and we would support further work to support the provision of outdoor opportunities to students, as part of curricular or extra-curricular activity. Being able to experience nature first hand is crucial for children and we would ensure DOC and the Ministry of Education work to increase opportunities for this through the Healthy People Healthy Nature; LERANZ and learning outdoors programmes.

NATIONAL PARTY: National believes that school camps are important learning opportunities, and a key part of many Kiwi children's school experience. Last year, the National Party pushed back against the Government's move to prevent schools who participated in its "no donations" scheme from accepting donations for camps. We know that many schools rely on donations to cover the cost of camps and we were glad when the Government saw sense and changed its scheme so that camps would be exempt. We would ensure that schools are able to accept donations for camps or other extra-curricular activities if they felt that was the best way to provide these experiences for their students.

THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY: TOP are committed to offering all our children a nature-based education. Outdoor play is hugely beneficial to kids. We need less assessment and more learning - which takes place in the real world.

Through investing in quality Professional Development, we'd be keen to see more outdoor play and education offered within school hours.

Health and Safety regulations has been a major influence on discouraging schools from partaking in nature-based education. We would aim to reduce the burden of this issue on schools.

TOP would reduce the paperwork and compliance burden on teachers and free up resources to allow more nature-based learning.

LABOUR PARTY: Learning outside the classroom is a vital part of schooling. Every Kiwi has fond memories of school camps, field trips and days out. Labour will continue funding for the 'Learning Experiences Outside the Classroom' initiative, which supports around 500,000 students each year to participate in learning activities in outdoor education facilities and other venues such as zoos, museums and historic parks.

In government we have reminded schools that students cannot be excluded from attending a camp or going on a trip that is part of the curriculum because of an inability or unwillingness to pay a donation towards the cost. But, at same time, we have put in place a special exemption so that schools (including primary schools) who have received extra funding instead of general donations are still allowed to ask for donations towards overnight camps.

ACT New Zealand - Wikipedia
ACT PARTY: The Ministry of Education employs more than 3,200 staff while New Zealand has around 2,550 schools. The average Ministry employee is paid $86,000, significantly more than a teacher at the top of the pay scale. ACT's education policy includes halving the number of employees at the Ministry of Education freeing up a quarter of a billion dollars for children's education.
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