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THE HISTORICAL SHAPING OF RECREATION AND SPORT

Part 2, Ministerial Taskforce on Sport, Fitness & Leisure. January 2001

Recreation and sport has been influenced by various social forces in New Zealand. This part of the report broadly considers recreation and sport in an historical context.

Maori
Interest and participation in sport have been apparent in New Zealand society from the time of pre-European settlement. In the early Maori societies, for example, games, physical pastimes and certain activities associated with ritual and training could be considered as sport in the European sense of this term. Thus Best (1976) describes:

(i) Military exercises and games viewed as useful training (wrestling, boxing, jumping, foot racing and tree climbing).
(ii) Aquatic games and pastimes (swimming, surf riding and waka racing).
(iii) Agility or manual dexterity games (dart throwing and jackstones).
(iv) Games and pastimes of children (flying, toboggaining, top spinning and possibly stone bowling).

In most of these activities were elements of ritual, training, defence and games. Physical activities were often referred to as "nga mahi a te rehia" or "the arts of pleasure". Maori tradition recounts legendary swimming and athletic feats which echo those found in all societies. In iwi settings there was little leisure, but the activities that may be considered in that context include weaving, action songs and haka, carving and poi. These were integrated with many dimensions of Maori life.

European Settlement
The European settlers introduced their own sports to their new homeland. Cricket was introduced by the missionaries in the Bay of Islands in 1825. As early as the 1840s cricket clubs were formed in Wellington where, as in other areas and with other New Zealand sports, the militia promoted the spread and consolidation of sport. The pioneering life -- with its rigours of clearing the land, establishing homes, draining swamps, setting up small communities, and the long hours of labour -- led to agricultural and pastoral gatherings which included various competitions related to rural life. Ploughing, wood chopping, mustering and sheep shearing competitions evolved.

Hunt clubs were transplanted from their English setting, complete with traditional dress and custom. The expansion of settler sports ranged from live pigeon shoots to curling, which had its first club formed in 1873, only two years after New Zealand 's first golf club, the Otago Golf Club, had been launched in Dunedin. A typical range of sport activity was noted in the Canterbury area by the Lyttleton Times of June 1872. That publication referred to ploughing matches which had been held in three rural districts, a cross country "paper hunt" and a football match between Heathcote and College. Auckland defeated the locals at athletics, evoking the comment that more training was needed in this sport which had "acquired a distinctive importance amongst our recreative amusements equal in every sense to that which pertains to cricket and boating" (22 July, 1872). The allegiance of socio-economic groups to certain sports is reflected in other newspaper records of the day, such as in the New Zealand Herald of 27 May, 1878, which noted the Tradesmen 's Athletic Club at Ellerslie and the Pakuranga Hunt Club. The same issue, along with the selling of crimean shirts and boys ' knickerbocker suits, made reference to Man-of-War boating races and local football.

Expenditure on sport was reflected in the 33,500 pounds spent at Otago race tracks in 1873, in an era when footracers earned cash from professional racing (Crawford, 1984). As in the United States of America, Australia and the United Kingdom, sports in New Zealand society were seen as positive forces which enhanced "healthy living" and countered the excessive lures of alcohol and tobacco.

The concept of mateship in the twenty-first century, in sports such as rugby and rugby league, is seen as having its roots in the frontier society of nineteenth century New Zealand. Frontier life was also characterised by unattached males, the telling of yarns and informal physical recreation such as picnic events, hunting, local competition, drinking, and local rules in games. Church, annual community events and the occasional touring company performance provided focal points for families.

Water based and team sports were popular and newspapers recorded large attendances at rugby matches, athletic meets and horse racing. As was to be noted in the twentieth century, participation of all sectors of the New Zealand population in particular nineteenth century sports was influenced by work hours, race, disposable income and education background. Historians have noted the marginalisation of women in recreation and sport, with little recognition in historical literature given to their pursuits.

Industralised societal values such as the division of labour, recognition for hard work, set times governing daily routines, and increasing regulation are seen by recreation and sport sociologists as influencing the shape of non-work activity and the setting up of associations with rules and sanctions. By the end of the nineteenth century national associations were being formed. Improved communications, increasing transport linkages, technology advances and the installation of central government enhanced the development of sport uniformity and competition structures. In 1892 a government bill was passed to allow shops to close at 1:00 pm on Saturdays. The growth of secondary schooling, with its attendant conformity, provided pools of potential players and strengthened the standardisation of rules. The increasing regulation of society was reflected in the formation of national and regional bodies, such as: Auckland Athletics Association (1887) ; Amateur Rowing Association (1887) ; Swimming Association (1889) ; Football (Soccer) Association (1891) ; Rugby Football Union (1892) ; Alpine Club (1892) ; and the Cricket Council (1894). A wide range of institutions also accepted the positive values of play and recreation, illustrated by the Dunedin Curative Asylum in 1875 having activities such as bowls, croquet and rambling. Cycling had become popular with the advent of the penny-farthing cycle and grew in popularity with subsequent improved models. This invention also impacted upon the mobility of women and their ability to gather for recreation and sport. The increase in organised recreation and sport reflected a belief that activity had social benefits, including community cohesion.

There are clear parallels in New Zealand 's sport development with those of organised sport in nineteenth century Europe. The mass movement of sport grew apace in both settings. Communication and transport advances facilitated international sport competition and the standardisation of rules and records. The increases in Australasian sports organisation in this period has been observed by some sport sociologists as having increasingly capitalistic and democratic values such as the division of labour, discipline, constitutions, meetings, thrift, subscriptions, sanctions and assigned duties. In the cities, the provision of facilities such as the Auckland Domain in 1890 and support of team sports was a practical means toward the organisation of spare time and the influencing of social values about recreation and sport.

The nineteenth century closed with major sports consolidating their organisation and male sports dominating national associations, sporting columns and resources. Despite this, women preceded the men in introducing hockey, basketball and baseball. Outdoor women 's basketball changed to netball and this became the dominant sport for women and with more clubs affiliated to its governing body than any of its male counterparts. At that time New Zealand horses were experiencing success in Australia 's prestigious Melbourne Cup and a decrease in violent blood sports, such as coursing with live hares and live pigeon shooting had become increasingly evident.

Into the Twentieth Century
Rugby, first played in Nelson in 1870, assumed increasing prominence in the early years of twentieth century New Zealand. The 1888-89 New Zealand Natives team, primarily comprised of Maori players, was the first New Zealand sports team to tour the British Isles. The 1905 "Originals" national team who toured the British Isles became known as the "All Blacks" because of their black jerseys. These words became elevated to the realm of national sport mythology. Rugby 's entrenchment as the perceived national game was enhanced by the political recognition and public support accorded that particular team. This sport has, arguably, more than any other form of recreation and sport, been the focus of national attention, debate, media attention and an echo of the New Zealand voice. The virtues of rugby were lauded in similar terms as the qualities of New Zealanders at war, reflecting a "moral, imperial, highly structured and highly gendered" model of physical recreation (Phillips, 2000, p. 3).

Recreation activities such as tramping, hunting and fishing developed club structures after World War I. In 1913 the noted climber Freda Du Faur made the Grand Traverse of Mt Cook. In the same broad period there was local government recognition of leisure and sport with the establishment of community facilities. At the national level, the advent of the YMCA (1855) and YWCA (1878) , Boys 'Brigade (1889) , Boy Scouts (1908) , Girl Guides (1923) and Girls ' Brigades (1928) , fostered an emphasis upon healthy physical activity and associated moral virtues, particularly that of "playing the game". Before World War I the national school curriculum had sport and physical drills securely established with an emphasis upon perceived values and formative experiences of team play. A survey of New Zealand school readers supplied by the Education Department reveals tales of English public schools, where "chaps" played "rugger" and cricket. The exposure of young Kiwi people to moral and sporting values espoused at school fashioned many lasting attitudes in adults. Along with an exhortation to "play the game of Empire" in School Journals were comments that "As British people we love fair play" and "Life itself is a game, and by playing it unselfishly, honourably and nobly we shall be carrying out the wishes of our Great Captain" (Cited in Jenkins, 1939, p. 5). Moral exhortations included the ultimate sport metaphor, urging young New Zealanders to "always be ready to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the side" (ibid). Later years reinforced the same sport morality links which are redolent of espoused beliefs found in nineteenth century British schools. New Zealanders of British descent continued to often refer to England as "home". Imperial links were further reinforced by the institution of the Empire Games in 1930, now known as the Commonwealth Games.

New Zealand 's initial entry into the Olympic Games in the early decades of the twentieth century was undertaken as part of an Australasian team. Subsequent decades have seen the country perform in its own right with a range of Olympic heroes.

For Maori, marae sport and activity was a special feature of their life in the first half of the twentieth century. Haka, poi and action songs shared the billing with such sports as hockey, netball or tennis keenly contested at iwi gatherings that attracted thousands. The physical and leisure activities became a feature in settings such as those of Waihirere and Ngati Poneke.

The impact of political and economic forces upon New Zealand society in the depression of the 1930s was also seen in their influence upon sport, such as at the annual meeting of Auckland soccer in 1932 when many clubs were declared to be unfinancial. A 1935 advertisement for Darlow 's footballs advised potential purchasers they would be assisting the New Zealand farmer, tanner and football maker "and thus relieving the bugbear of unemployment in your own country". Two years later, however, a step forward in New Zealand sport came with the Physical Welfare and Recreation Act 1937. The Labour Government of that time was concerned at the low level of fitness of young New Zealanders and implications this had for defence. Parliamentary rhetoric revealed bipartisan beliefs in the moral and social values of sport for the individual and society. The Act provided for central government to grant sport facilities money to local governments and allowed local government to spend money on these facilities. A physical welfare programme was hindered by the advent of World War II. A National Council for Sport, set up to support sporting bodies, withered.

Post-war, the country 's population became more urban and increasingly mobile. Perceived social problems, such as the antisocial behaviour of teenagers with few facilities for activity, influenced consideration of the social role of sport in New Zealand society. Coupled with the post-war industrial growth and resultant urban development, the integral place of sport in New Zealand society was reflected in the provision of sports grounds and facilities by local governments. In the late 1950s and early 1960s for example, the new timber town of Kaingaroa had two dozen different organisations associated with sport (Chapple, 1973, p. 129). The daily press of each decade reveals the extent to which recreation and sport featured in contemporary life and indicates the gendered experience of these for much of the century.

The Recreation and Sport Act 1973, provided for the establishment of a Council for Recreation and Sport and created the Office of a Minister of Recreation and Sport. Administratively, the political recognition of sport -- at times in a response to perceived social needs -- was further reflected in the rise of the New Zealand Sports Foundation and the Hillary Commission. Arguably, these structures have assumed de facto roles of social organisation and control of recreation and sport through their powers of financial disbursement and economic patronage.

In the past three decades the main administrative changes, and reviews of recreation and sport have included:

Contemporary
In New Zealand "sport and leisure is a $4. 5 million a day business" (Hillary Commission, 1993b, p. 3) which supports almost 23, 000 jobs and generates some $300 million per annum in taxes. The Business of Sport and Leisure by the Hillary Commission (1993b) examined sport, fitness and leisure, and related these to social and economic outcomes and activity. The survey confirmed that 1. 4 million people were members of sport and leisure organisations in New Zealand. The economic impact of sport and leisure was determined to be $4. 5 million per day. The tax payments of $300 million per year from sport and leisure are direct outcomes from these sectors. The industry also generates employment and expenditure through associated tourism and sport or fitness-related industries.

Sports codes have diversified, sport values have shifted, and social issues have been strongly reflected in the interplay of sport and politics and the directions that certain forms of sport have taken. Recreation and leisure interests have been reflected in the 1990 Hillary Commission Life In New Zealand survey which placed swimming and diving, cycling, pool and snooker, tennis and aerobics as major interests of New Zealanders over 15 years of age. This lends support to the assertion that the informal engagement by small groups in sport may be more common than formally organised participation. The foremost sporting interests revealed in the Life In New Zealand survey were swimming, diving, cycling, snooker and pool, tennis and aerobics. More New Zealanders, however, watch sport than participate in it. The survey noted that New Zealanders 'leisure involvement was most frequently undertaken in the home environment e. g. gardening, relaxing, reading, music or watching television. The housework commitment of women was substantially higher than that of men, implying restrictions on available time for leisure.

The closing decades of the twentieth century saw the establishment of Regional Sports Trusts which promote physically healthy lifestyles and programmes geared to particular community needs. The Trusts are financed by local community and business interests and also receive grants from the Hillary Commission.

The most pervasive aspect of organised recreation and sport is the game of rugby union football. Rugby illustrates the complex interface of sport and society in New Zealand and makes for itself a special case of national and international prominence. Played throughout the country rugby has a range of perceptions and cultural meanings attached to it by various societal groups. Rugby league, netball and cricket also continue to dominate team sport allegiances in New Zealand sport. However, independent and more individualistic sports such as tennis, rowing, canoeing, shearing, wood chopping, yachting, equestrian, mountaineering, triathlon, and squash have seen world champions emerge from New Zealand. Technology and international competition have become inextricably linked with commercialism and sponsorship, which has been apparent in such ventures as the America 's Cup, held by a New Zealand syndicate at the time of this report.

Elite sport in the post-World War II decades saw special achievements of athletes, sailors, rugby teams, paralympians, equestrians, and many other singular sports people from Williams to Loader, Devoy to Waddell. At the elite level, the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games results focused the magnifying glass of public scrutiny upon the support, selection and preparation of New Zealand 's elite athletes. The assigned expenditure fuelled discussion on the allocations for elite sport and the neglected emphasis upon coach expertise and development. Resultant debates over sport structures and targeted expenditure have underscored the role of the Ministerial Taskforce on Sport, Fitness and Leisure in late 2000.

Significant in the development of New Zealand recreation and sport has been its shaping and construction by the media. The international reach of television, especially, has presented American basketball, boxers and track stars in New Zealand homes more readily than most New Zealand sports have been able to achieve.

In terms of participation rates, there are suggestions that fewer New Zealanders are playing sport and that this is more evident in the 40+age group. The New Zealanders most likely to be actively engaged in sport are aged 15-29 years and in households earning less than $30, 000, or over $70, 000. The less involved are women, older New Zealanders and people living in the upper North Island.

Figures on New Zealanders 'levels of activity are not always definitive in Hillary Commission documents but its Sport and Physical Activity Survey (1997-98) indicates one in three New Zealanders is physically inactive, with males being more active than females. Despite New Zealand 's image of an active outdoor environment there are real "constraints to leisure" (Genet, 2000) felt by urban residents at least.

Sport has become a major consideration in the social and economic life of New Zealand. It has, arguably, become justified less on grounds of social and moral values than as the domain of fitness, commercial imperatives and branding. In 2000 AD recreation and sport may be viewed significantly through the lens of the media, vested commercial interests, the "amateur-professional" debate, or bound up with international competition, politics, funding, national prestige, or the subtle forces of symbolism. These have all been illustrated in the establishment of the Warrior 's rugby league team, the Kingz soccer team, Super 12 rugby and part-professional netball in the late 1990s. At the grassroots of New Zealand recreation and sport the clubs, volunteers and schools and diverse forms of participation continue to seed the involvement of New Zealanders in this vital sector of New Zealand life.

Changes in sport, fitness and leisure through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s revealed:

Faced with difficult economic times and demographic change, such as people living longer and having fewer children, it is likely the provision of meaningful and healthy leisure activities will take on greater significance. Leisure is predicted to be a major growth industry of the twenty-first century. This could cause notable changes in the way New Zealanders recreate and sports New Zealanders play and enjoy. New and modified fields are developing such as: many indoor sports; sports in which participation is relatively quick and easy; various "free range activities" like abseiling and rock climbing; environmental sport; less aerobic sport as the population ages; and spectator sports changing to meet television expectations and demands.

There is some evidence to suggest New Zealanders are moving away from organised sport, citing a lack of time, increasing cost, loss of interest and injury concerns. They are taking up what they perceive as more attractive and less organised recreational opportunities. This may lead to a reduction in the elite talent pool. The tension between traditional sporting bodies and new entrepreneurial sports agents is also forcing a process of adaptation to new social and economic circumstances. Some sporting organisations are now at a crossroads where they must determine how to progress without ceding control to commercial third parties.

Despite the pervasive nature of recreation and sporting activities in New Zealand society, it is still rare for this sport oriented nation to critically consider the beliefs and values that sustain and shape our recreation and sport. The Taskforce has debated these values, drawn upon its knowledge of the forces shaping New Zealand recreation and sport and critically considered the major structures of this sector. This report now outlines these structures which currently are central to New Zealand recreation and sport.

END

 

The full report can be obtained from: http://www.executive.govt.nz/minister/mallard/taskforce/