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Funding stories

Sport Northland

Focus area: Community Support
Sport Northland

One of fourteen regional sports trusts in Aotearoa, Sport Northland has worked to enhance the health and wellbeing of Tai Tokerau since 1991. 

Working with 40 regional sports organisations, over 500 sport and recreation clubs and over 160 schools, Sport Northland has a vision of ‘All Northlanders moving more for enhanced wellbeing’.

Access to participation in sport and recreation strengthens community resilience, connection, and wellbeing. Through their mahi, the Sport Northland team aims to improve the quality and access to sport and recreation within six targeted areas in Tai Tokerau. From the Kaipara District to the Far North, the organisation works alongside the community to achieve their diverse aspirations for sustainable and impactful play, active recreation, and sports opportunities.

In 2023, Sport Northland received a Foundation North grant in support of their Community Connectors and Regional Connector kaimahi.

Connectors supporting communities

The Sport Northland Community Connectors support and empower members of local communities by facilitating community-led goals, activities and projects.

The Connectors have helped guide school sport coordinators and sports staff, advocating for access to active sport and recreation opportunities for all rangatahi in secondary schools. This mahi saw them engaging with stakeholders, the sports sector, and school management to prioritise enhancing the quality and number of opportunities for rangatahi.

Noticing the declining numbers of rangatahi wāhine participating in sports, the organisation supports high school-age girls engaging with sports and the coaches and administrators working with the girls' teams and athletes. This targeted support prioritises creating safe spaces for sport and recreation, easing some social pressures that impact priority communities and prevent them from accessing opportunities.

“Being community-led means we are working together in a place to create and achieve locally owned visions and goals. Rather than being a model or service, our approach works with many people, groups, and sectors, working together, utilising people’s strengths and assets, growing diverse, collaborative leadership.”
- Anna Markwick, Active Communities Manager

Access to opportunity enabling community involvement

On their journey toward achieving their vision, the team at Sport Northland engages with iwi, schools, health providers, and local councils to enable collaborative, community-led growth.

Tai Tokerau is one of the more isolated areas in Aotearoa. Living and growing up in areas without access to key services often contributes to adverse health, wellbeing, and educational outcomes that form barriers to access felt intergenerationally. Knowing this, Sport Northland formulated strategic objectives to inform their priority communities and began working with these communities to achieve locally owned goals and visions.

Working to better understand their communities’ unique needs and priorities has led the organisation to be involved with twelve community-led projects. These range in scale from supporting the multi-million dollar Lindvart Park redevelopment in Kaikohe to the Selwyn Park Fitness Trail in Dargaville.

Sport Northland’s involvement in these local projects showcases the need and opportunity for improvement across Tai Tokerau.

“The challenge for Sport Northland is how to connect the resources, skills, and energy within a community – to improve the participant experience without compromising the unique aspirations of each of the many stakeholders. At its heart, this influencing approach to being community-led recognises that any participation, through locally led projects, will be more sustainable if they are 'owned and operated' by local people.”
- Brent Eastwood, Sport Northland Chief Executive

Reflecting Tai Tokerau diversity

Community support plays a significant role in the health and wellbeing of individuals. As the cultural and ethnic diversity in Tai Tokerau continues to grow, those offering this support must reflect the diversity of the communities they mahi in. Since 2017, Sport Northland has made great strides to improve the representation of its Board. In six years, the Sport Northland Board of Trustees has seen an increase in female and tangata whenua members and members under the age of 45.

Sport Northland’s honouring of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in their mahi has resulted in the organisation being one of the first regional sports trusts to adopt a bi-cultural partnership approach. In 2022, they introduced a co-chair model to reflect their Board, and became the first Regional Sports Trust in Aotearoa to receive a Governance Mark from crown agency Sport New Zealand for the second time this year.