Mandatory school sport signalled

A Labour-led government would look into having weekly study-free afternoons in every secondary school for pupils to play sports.

Its sport and recreation policy, to be released today, includes broad initiatives such as fighting obesity, encouraging physical activity and maintaining back-country huts and tracks.

It has a focus on participation in school sport, including investigating "reintroducing midweek early finishing nationwide to facilitate midweek sport".

Sports and recreation spokesman Trevor Mallard said such a policy would take a couple of years to fully implement.

"I think we'd make it compulsory. I'm not saying everyone should play rugby, but encouragement - unless there are medical reasons - of some sort of club-type activity. It wouldn't be that everyone just gets off school early."

Giving schools more bats and balls without any real support or development did not lead to greater participation in sport.

Mr Mallard said clubs could get more involved with schools to keep pupils active and engaged in sports for longer.

The policies would not cost any extra as a rejig of Sport and Recreation NZ would free up some cash.

Labour would also ensure sports funding decisions were made by the Sparc board, not the minister, to prevent them from being politicised. Extra funding could also come from partnerships with the private sector.

The policy document also cites back-country huts and tracks as a significant asset that draws tourists.

"The existing network of back-country huts and tracks is vital as well and should remain. A bivvy in the right place, for example, can save lives," the document says.

"Labour will promote development of new outdoor recreational opportunities, for example, walking and cycling trails on former railways land."

Labour would also invest in training volunteers in coaching and management skills.


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