Sport NZ: Outdoor Recreation Review

Outdoor Recreation Review: Initial Findings Report…
01 Jul 2008

In 2006 the outdoor recreation sector indicated to Government that a review of the outdoor recreations sector was needed. The sector was described as ‘rudderless’, fragmented and under-valued, and as such, limiting its potential to improve individual, community, environmental, economic and national outcomes. Improved coordination and collaboration was also considered necessary in order to meet the challenges of a changed and changing context, such as increased urbanisation, ageing populations, decreasing club membership, increasing pressure on environments and increasing demands for eco- and adventure-tourism.

In 2007 the Minister for Sport and Recreation and the Minister of Conservation agreed to undertake a sector review to initiate the development of a sector-wide strategic framework. A sector Steering Group was established to provide input to the review and communication links with the sector.

This report presents the findings from a review of relevant research and consultation with key stakeholders during 2007 and 2008.

The review has identified the potential for outdoor recreation to provide a point of difference in the quality of life offered in New Zealand; to develop healthier communities and individuals; to sustain a growing domestic and international tourism sector and other economic opportunities; and to provide more New Zealanders with an opportunity to experience and value New Zealand’s environment. Of particular note is the restorative value of outdoor recreation and its provision of a context in which young people can develop self-sufficiency, self-responsibility, problem-solving and life leadership skills.

Evidence suggests that large parts of our communities are not sufficiently active to maintain basic good health, that people’s discretionary time is decreasing, and that the availability of inactive screen-based leisure pursuits is increasing, especially for our young people. This signals the need for information about outdoor recreation opportunities, benefits, training, funding, and support to be better coordinated, consistent, accurate and accessible to participants, providers and facilitators.

In some areas of the sector there is evidence of innovative responses to current needs and trends. However, the lack of a strategic framework for the sector has seen ad hoc progress across the sector as a whole. Improved coordination, collaboration, capacity and capability are considered necessary to enable the sector to meet the current and future challenges in a way that maximises opportunities, benefits, investment and resources.

Outdoor recreation contributes to government objectives related to conservation of the environment, management of resources, economic performance, health and wellbeing, and national identity. The review identified that central and local government investment and involvement in outdoor recreation is extensive.

However, there is a need for greater collaboration and coordination between agencies to maximise efficiencies and improve the profile and value of outdoor recreation.

Stakeholders consider government has a key role to play indeveloping a strategic framework for recreation, particularly as no agency is currently responsible for the promotion of outdoor recreation across government or throughout the whole sector.

Stakeholders reported that the organisational health of the sector is inconsistent and generally uncoordinated in its efforts to achieve what was generally found to be a common vision for the sector. A lack of strategic direction and leadership was seen as being frustrated by conflicts in some areas, particularly shared use of outdoor recreation environments and resource constraints. The lack of a framework in the sector was seen as a contributing factor in the sector’s limited ability to effectively advocate for outdoor recreation both within government and elsewhere.

Sector stakeholders considered that duplication of roles and efforts, which currently exist in the sector, contribute to the competitive nature of the sector, uncoordinated and often competing responses to sector needs, unhealthy competition between agencies due to limited resources, and contradictory messages from the sector to government. Other factors that limit the sector’s effectiveness include an aging club membership, increasing trends for participation in non-club recreation activities, competing demands on volunteers, gaps and overlaps in the qualifications options, and relationship breakdowns among sector groups.

Outdoor recreation funding from its various sources was reported as being fragmented and uncoordinated, resulting in inefficiencies and potential duplications. A factor in this situation was reported as a lack of understanding about funding sources, timing of application rounds and criteria for receiving funding, along with what was described as a competitive and low-trust sector environment.

Pressures on outdoor environments are frustrating attempts to establish sector cohesion and collaboration. While there is general agreement on the need to protect and manage the environment in which outdoor recreation occurs, competing demands within and between sections of the sector have generated a complex set of relationships. Often the conservation value of an environment is in conflict with the need to provide safe and efficient access to such environments. Tensions also exist around increased commercialisation of outdoor recreation, particularly mechanised adventure tourism where this occurs in areas where non-mechanised recreation activities occur. Stakeholders also reported the increased use of outdoor environments has resulted in these areas experiencing more rubbish and human waste, lower water quality and loss of biodiversity, negative impacts on high value landscapes, and traffic congestion.

Collaboration, planning and compromise are needed to ensure safe and equitable access is maintained to sustainably managed environments.

The review identified the fragmentation of training qualifications. This was considered a contributing factor to duplication of training qualifications and confusion in the sector, uncertainty for employers and inefficiencies of effort and use of funds. Furthermore, some parts of the sector consider that New Zealand’s safety standards are lower than some other countries that have high rates of participation in outdoor recreation.

It was suggested that standards, qualifications and safety management schemes within a strong framework are needed to deliver education and training in the sector.

The review identified a significant lack of comprehensive information relating to outdoor recreation in New Zealand and that this has compromised the ability of sector groups to plan and invest strategically in outdoor recreation. Where data and research is available, no effective centralised mechanism is in place for the collection and dissemination of information exists.

The sector considered it timely to develop a coordinated framework to ensure that the outdoor recreation sector is well placed to meet the challenges identified in this review both now and in the future.



The outdoor recreation review considers all terrestrial, airborne and waterborne outdoor recreation, including remote wilderness and backcountry areas (e.g. mountains, rivers, lakes, and forest parks) to the closer to home, city and urban areas (e.g. green parks, and constructed parks and play grounds) and the coastal environment and sea.

The review aims to capture the value of outdoor recreation, participation rates and activities, key sector stakeholders (including facilitators and providers) and key challenges facing the sector. This report contains the findings from the review that has informed a discussion document that invites public comment on the initial steps towards the development of a national plan of action for the sector.

Page last modified: 22 Mar 2018