Coronavirus: Sport Minister Grant Robertson promises more help for grassroots

Sport Minister Grant Robertson has hinted that grassroots sports will receive further support, as the coronavirus lockdown continues to take a heavy toll on the industry.

On Friday morning, Robertson confirmed Sport NZ and High Performance Sport NZ would roll over their current funding programmes for another year, providing some surety for sports struggling, as their income streams dry up.

The high-performance funding also allows Olympic athletes to plan for the Tokyo Games, now postponed for 12 months until the crisis has cleared.

National sporting organisations (NSOs) were also eligible for the wage subsidy scheme available for businesses to retain staff during the month lockdown.

But Robertson has promised a further package to help NSOs continue grassroots operations through the uncertainty. 

One important community funding source that has dried up under COVID-19 is gaming machines and local trusts, which support grassroots programmes across most sports.

"I've been talking to the Minister of Internal Affairs about the way in which the gaming trusts, because clearly, there has been a sigficant decline in revenue through gambling.

"It will take some time to piece together what that package would look like, but we certainly understand the impact it's having, particularly on community sport, to not have that gaming-trust funding.

"We are looking at a sports-recovery package, as we are in many other sectors, particularly for those parts of the sector that have been adversely affected." 

With the NZ economy under severe pressure and Government dishing out financial assistance to all sectors, some media clearly questioned whether sport deserved rescuing, particularly if NSOs were not meeting the key performance indicators set for them.

"I just think it's really important that we have certainty and continuity for funding for those organisations," responded Robertson.

"This is a period of time where we can't expect sporting organisations to meet their KPIs, many of which involve going out to schools and other places.

"We took the decision to simply guarantee funding through to June 2021, so those organisations can continue their work and continue to prepare for when we do move into different levels of the framework, where sport will go back to playing a really important role in our physical and mental health.

More to come