Sport, recreation still big part in Kiwi lifestyle

Monday 24 November 2008, 10:13AM

The 2007/08 Active New Zealand Survey demonstrates that large numbers of Kiwi adults continue to participate in sport and recreation.

The new research also shows that there has been no fall off in overall participation levels since the previous comparable survey in 2001.

The survey commissioned by SPARC reveals that, on any given week, 80 percent of New Zealanders aged 16 and above participate in a sport or recreation activity – that’s 2.6 million Kiwis having a go every week.

The data also shows that almost half the adult population meet the minimum recommended physical activity guidelines, that is, they did 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on at least five days a week. A further 20 percent of adults are close to meeting that target.

SPARC Chief Executive Peter Miskimmin says the survey results are highly encouraging.

“The survey shows that despite perceptions we’re becoming a nation of couch potatoes, we’re actually out having fun, playing and participating in our millions.

“It reinforces the good work the sport and recreation sector is doing in communities up and down the country.

“The data gives us tremendous confidence that sport and recreation are as important to New Zealanders as they’ve ever been,” Miskimmin said.

Other major results in the survey are:

• Walking, gardening and swimming are the top three activities participated in per year;

• Volunteers continue to be the backbone of sport and recreation with one in four adults involved as volunteers;

• Clubs and centres play a major role in sport and recreation participation. Per month, one-third of adults utilise clubs/centres for sport and recreation;

• We love to compete - 37 percent of adults are involved in events and organised competitions.

• Among adults who are active, sport and recreation is the main way they achieve their recommended daily dose of physical activity

• When compared to the total population, a similar proportion of Maori, New Zealand European and Pacific adults achieve New Zealand national physical activity guidelines

The 2007/08 Active New Zealand survey is the most thorough and robust national level survey of sport and recreation participation ever done in this country and the first to be published since 2001. A total of 4,443 face-to-face interviews were conducted over a 12 month period.

The initial report presents an overview of key findings, and over the next six months SPARC will be releasing profiles of regions, most popular sport and recreation activities, volunteers, and demographic profiles including ethnicity and older New Zealanders.

SPARC Research Manager Grant McLean says the survey will provide a wealth of information and will provide a meaningful benchmark for the future.

“What clearly comes through from the data is the large number of New Zealanders who are participating, myth-busting the perception we’re becoming more sedentary and less involved in getting out there and having a go in a wide range of sport and recreation activities.

“The survey results confirm that sport and recreation remain fundamental to the Kiwi way of life and that here is great potential for more New Zealanders to participate and be active,” McLean said.

SPARC is the crown entity responsible for promoting encouraging and supporting sport and physical recreation in New Zealand.


The active New Zealand survey key findings report can be viewed on the SPARC website at from  21 November 2008.

Active New Zealand Survey 2007/08 Questions and Answers

What is the Active New Zealand Survey? The Active New Zealand Survey is an in-depth, comprehensive snapshot of New Zealand adults aged 16+ participation levels in sport, recreation and physical activities

How was the survey done? A total of 4,443 face-to-face interviews with New Zealanders aged 16 and above were completed over 12 months (beginning in March 2007)

The data were collected over 12 months to truly reflect sport, recreation and physical activity levels rather than a point-in-time survey which could be skewed by seasonal factors.

Face-to-face nationwide surveys are time and labour intensive undertakings but produce more robust data than telephone surveys. The data has been weighted to be representative of the total New Zealand population. As part of the interview, participants reported their physical activity involvement over the seven days preceding the day of the interview.

The comprehensive nature of the data collection makes this the most in-depth physical activity and participation survey of its kind done in New Zealand.

Why did SPARC do the survey? SPARC and the sport and recreation sector requires accurate and detailed information so they can make informed decisions on investment to promote physical activity and participation.

In addition to SPARC, the information will be used by a wide range of organisations – national and regional sports organisations, national and regional recreation organisations, regional and local territorial authorities, regional sports trusts, government ministries and agencies. The media and the public will find the survey a rich source of information as well.

Has such as survey been done before? The Hillary Commission conducted a survey in 1997/98 and repeated it during the following two years. However the methodology has been significantly overhauled to ensure the data is more comprehensive, robust and accurate. This is the first such survey conducted by SPARC since the creation of the Crown Agency in 2003 and will be used as the baseline survey for the organisation. SPARC spent considerable time ensuring the survey design and methodology was robust to ensure it would provide in-depth information which would be more informative for the sport and recreation sector. Successive surveys are anticipated to be conducted every four years.

How is it different to previous surveys? The Active New Zealand Survey has been extensively redesigned compared to the Hillary Commission conducted surveys.

2000/01 NZSPAS 2007/08 Active NZ Survey
Measurement tool(s) Sport and Recreation Survey Modified version of the Sport and Recreation Survey AND a seven-day physical activity recall diary.
Sample Population Children (5 to 17 years old) and Adults (≥18 years old) Adults only ( ≥16 years old)
Data Collection Self-report (adult data) Parental proxy reports (child data) Self-report (adult data)

The Active New Zealand Survey is unique to other national surveys of physical activity as it measures all contexts of physical activity, active transport, occupation or unpaid work/other activities and the duration and intensity and type of activity using a seven day recall diary.

The Survey’s methodology has been developed using leading internal expertise in the field, pre-testing and validation studies have been undertaken, and it is of an international standard.

Why have you surveyed people 16 years plus and not children? Previous surveys used parents to report children’s physical activity but the resulting data was unreliable. Interviewing children would have also raised methodological, logistical and ethical issues. While not covering young children, to help fill this vacuum of evidence, we are one of several Government agencies involved in Youth 07 survey which is a health and wellbeing survey of New Zealand’s high school students.

Can I compare it to previous surveys? As this is a new instrument the data will not be directly comparable to previous surveys due to methodological differences. Where we can compare data between the two surveys we have done so to provide perspective. But it will be directly comparable to future such surveys using the same methodology. The broad areas of comparison (outlined on pages 19, 20 of the Active New Zealand Survey) are in the following categories;
• Percentage of New Zealand adults who participated in at least one sport or recreation activity over the past 12 months.
• Percentage of New Zealand adults who had been volunteers for a sport or recreation activity over the past 12 months.
• Percentage of New Zealand adults who had been members of clubs/centres to participate in a sport ore recreation activity.

What will SPARC do with the information? The Active New Zealand Survey will provide new benchmark figures for future surveys to understand trends. This national picture of activity will indicate –opportunities for improvement – and it will be a guide to setting future goals and implementing new initiatives. Its information will help develop and improve recreation and sport programmes. Survey findings are being sent to Regional Sports Trusts and National Sport and Recreational organisations and Government agencies involved who have interest in sport and recreation.

When is more information coming out? Following the release of the Key Results report in November 2008, reports on regions are planned for release in December and specific reports on special topics such as age, disability and ethnicity will be released around mid 2009. A full report will be issued by the end of 2009.

When are you doing another survey? The next survey is planned for 2012

Why are ‘non-sporting’ activities such as gardening included in the survey? As part of the Active New Zealand Survey New Zealanders were asked what they did to be active. The key questions relate to whether New Zealanders are being active and what they are doing to achieve (or not) the national physical activity guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on five or more days of the week. A 77-year-old grandmother might be into gardening and walking while a 17-year-old high school student could be keen on basketball and rugby – with both young and old indulging in legitimate forms of physical activity.

Is the ‘most popular activities’ list an accurate measure of membership of those activities? No. The Active New Zealand Survey is not a membership survey of particular sport or recreation clubs/organisations. It surveys what Kiwis say they do to be active. For example not all people who indicate they swim would be members of a swimming club. It is also important to remember this survey is of adults only and does not include people aged under 16. Membership figures should be sought from the appropriate national sport or recreation organisation.

Isn’t SPARC’s focus on sport and recreation rather than ‘past times’ such as gardening? Yes. SPARC is committed to encouraging New Zealanders to participate in sport and recreation, recognise the benefits that can be achieved, and helping ensure Kiwis have the opportunities to participate. This survey helps SPARC and stakeholders identify areas where resources need to go to continue to meet those aims.

What is encouraging is that of the 48.2 percent of Kiwis who met the `30 minutes a day’ moderate intensity physical activity target, 42.2% met this guideline through their sport and recreation activity. This confirms that sport and recreation continues to be the major avenue for Kiwis to be active.

Where can I find out more about the Active New Zealand Survey? The full Key Results report is posted on the SPARC website at


SPARC is the government agency charged with promoting, encouraging and supporting sport and physical recreation in New Zealand. For more information, visit