What changes have been made in Government support for elite athletes?
Heaps. Investment in high performance sport has grown to $30 million in 2005-06. Athletes have benefited significantly from the introduction of Prime Minister’s Sports Scholarships, with around 500 athletes receiving support during their tertiary education whilst training and competing. Three hundred athletes received performance enhancement grants, to offset the costs of being an elite athlete. There has been considerable support to coaches. Unfortunately, for the member’s interest, that has not quite got us to the point of having the Warriors win frequently.
I am very sad about the last part of the Minister’s answer, but what evidence has the Minister seen that these changes have made a difference?
The results of New Zealand athletes and teams at pinnacle events are steadily improving. We won 36 medals at world championship events in 2004-05. We have world champions in canoeing, rowing, softball, netball, cycling, triathlon, bowls, mountain running, and mountain biking.
We placed 24th out of 202 nations at the 2004 Olympics, and there has been a significant improvement on the 2000 Olympics, when we placed 45th. I am afraid that I cannot be responsible for all sports, although I understand that tennis is having quite an administrative review at the moment. As far as swimming and a number of other sports are concerned, when they got their administration right they started winning. I recommend to the National Party that if it gets its administration right, it might then win, too.
Are elite, successful waka ama athletes who achieve international rankings funded to the same extent that other successful rowers achieve; if not, why not?
No, because they are not part of the group of internationally recognised sports in the way that rowing is. I know there has been quite a lot of work, especially by Dallas Seymour from Sport and Recreation New Zealand, with people involved in the events, but they do not have the same level of recognition as probably hundreds of other sports that are not true international sports.