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Sport Waikato signals transformational change to get 75% of Waikato active

Sport Waikato signals transformational change to get 75% of Waikato active

Sport Waikato announced today it will make a transformational change within the organisation with the goal of increasing its impact in the Waikato community. 

Research shows that only 54% of Waikato adults are regularly active in a way that positively impacts their health, but it also shows that 73% of them have a desire to do more.  With this in mind, Sport Waikato is aiming to fundamentally change how it operates to achieve an aspirational goal of getting 75% of the community active.

Sport Waikato Chairman Mark McCabe says the announcement, which includes staffing changes, is the culmination of a board-led review that began in August 2019.  He says the goal is about forging a path to become an organisation that has a much larger, positive impact on the community. 

“During this eleven-month review, we took a good hard look at the organisation and the sport, active recreation and play systems within the Waikato region to identify what needs to change. What we’ve uncovered is a system that doesn’t currently meet the needs of Waikato people.

“Sport Waikato currently holds many contracts, each with different expected outcomes, and in order to achieve greater impact, we need to align our way of working with our key partners to our strategy,” he explains.

McCabe said the board and leadership team reviewed the regional Moving Waikato 2025 strategy which was implemented in 2016 and led by Sport Waikato.  This collaborative model that takes a partnership approach will be adopted as the Sport Waikato strategy moving forward, allowing it to take a deeper leadership role for the region.

“The board and leadership team feel strongly that Sport Waikato must transition its focus from being the ‘foot soldiers’ to an organisation that influences change at the highest levels in our community.

“We want to ensure that we are making the greatest impact for the people of the Waikato region – influencing and supporting play, active recreation and sport to ensure it is more exciting, accessible, relevant and inclusive,” McCabe says.

CEO Matthew Cooper says while the long-term impact of the transformation will ensure Sport Waikato is “game-ready for the next decade,” it also means changes for his staff.

“One thing that became apparent during the board-led review was that a radical shift in our organisation’s focus is required to achieve the radical goal we’ve set for ourselves.  But this also means a big change for our team.

“The proposed change I discussed with my staff today recommends creating several new jobs, changing some roles and disestablishing others. In the current proposal, the changes would reduce our team size by approximately half,” he explains.

Cooper says the proposed changes are not due to the impacts of Covid-19.  He also stresses they have nothing to do with staff performance.

“I want to make it very clear that this change is not a reflection on our people.  We have a wonderful team who perform their roles with passion and excellence.  This is a case of becoming leaner to become stronger, focusing on one big goal and working with Waikato community leaders to achieve it,” says Cooper.

He says his immediate priority is helping staff through this time of change. 

“We are conscious this change announcement coincides with an economic downturn caused by Covid-19, and therefore we will go the extra mile to support our people through it.”

Cooper believes Waikato needs a kaitiaki, or guardian, of play, active recreation and sport across the greater Waikato region.

“Sport Waikato is best placed to fill this kaitiaki role.  But we can’t do that by running small events and, what I often refer to as, ‘putting out cones.’

“Going forward, Sport Waikato will focus on guiding and working in partnership with decision makers and policy setters across the region to influence system change alongside territorial and regional authorities, regional and national sporting organisations, recreation providers, primary and secondary schools, the Waikato District Health Board and other health partners.

 “I can promise our communities of the Waikato region that everything Sport Waikato does going forward will contribute toward achieving one vision - everyone, out there and active - and one targeted goal of seeing 75% of Waikato people participating in physical activity,” he explains.

Sport Waikato has written to key funders, partners, local and regional government contacts and key stakeholders today about the proposed transformation plans for the organisation.  Many of these organisations have played an integral role in the review to date.