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Prime Minister John Key and the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Murray McCully, recently announced a major initiative entitled Kiwisport, which targets investment in sport for school-aged children.
This signals a significant refocusing of resources into increasing the numbers of school-aged children participating in organised sport, during school and after school, by strengthening links with sporting organisations within the school's local environment.
What it means for Otago is the investment of additional money direct to secondary schools through the bulk funding allocation from the Ministry of Education based on school rolls.
It also establishes a Regional Partnership Fund (RPF) that will be distributed through Sport Otago that amounts to $253,638 in year one, rising to $344,174 in years two to three.
This fund is expected to be used to respond to the sporting needs of specific communities and provide funding to projects or programmes that will increase participation in organised sport by school-aged children.
It is also designed to facilitate the development of partnerships involving schools, clubs, local authorities, community-based providers and regional sports trusts. Through these partnerships it is expected that further financial contribution will be attracted to provide support to projects or programmes.
This is a fantastic opportunity to grow sport participation at the grassroots across Otago. There is enormous potential to increase the number of school-aged children participating in sport.
However, this amazing opportunity will only be realised if we co-operate and collaborate to develop projects, programmes and initiatives that focus on growing participation for our school-aged youth.
Kiwisport represents a challenge to show that we can create something special that will benefit our school-aged children and create a lasting legacy.
As part of implementing Kiwisport, Sport Otago must consult with its communities in developing an RPF plan that will outline the priorities for how the fund will be allocated.
This plan requires approval by Sport and Recreation New Zealand before the funds are released to the Otago region.
Sport Otago has already had discussions with the Regional Sports Forum (Regional Sports Organisations), individual codes, school sports co-ordinators, the Otago Secondary Schools Sports Association, the Otago Secondary Schools Principals Association, the Otago Primary School Principals Association, community trusts, community and club forums and other stakeholders.
This consultation will end on October 19 to allow the RPF to be developed, get feedback and then be considered by the Sport Otago board of trustees.
Sport Otago will also be linking a range of its activities and services to Kiwisport. The implementation of Kiwisport provides an opportunity for sports organisations to work closer with Sport Otago and receive assistance with strategic planning, sport development, capability assessment, advice on finances and volunteer strategies, as well as access to coaching of coaches and mentoring.
Sport Otago has always had a strong relationship with schools within the region reinforced by our regional offices in Central, Waitaki and Clutha.
The introduction of Kiwisport with its focus on school-centred growth in sporting participation and opportunity will only serve to strengthen those relationships, together working to provide the best possible outcomes for the school-aged children of Otago.