Active NZ survey highlights Kiwi love of the outdoors

In this column New Zealand Walking Access Commission Chief Executive Mark Neeson comments on how New Zealanders' love of outdoor recreation shines through in the recently released results of Sport NZ's 2013-14 Active NZ Survey.

As New Zealanders, our impressive outdoor environment and active society are part of our national identity. And judging by the results of the latest Active NZ Survey 2013-14, released by Sport NZ last month, our love of outdoor recreation is as strong as ever.

The survey provides a nationwide snapshot on how, when and where adults are engaging in sport and recreation, both as participants and volunteers. The previous Active NZ survey was undertaken six years ago, in 2007-08.

Seventy four percent of the 6,000 adults surveyed take part in sport and recreation every week – a slight increase of one per cent on the previous survey – and most are participating three or more days each week.

While walking was the most popular activity, other outdoors-based activities, such as fishing, cycling (including mountain biking), jogging/running, tramping, swimming and canoeing/kayaking, featured in the top 20 activities for both men and women. In fact, unstructured recreation activities tended to be the most popular, ahead of sports activities such as rugby, netball, football and basketball.

The survey also found participation is most often in outdoor environments, both in towns and cities – on paths and cycleways, and in urban parks – and in more natural settings, such as waterways, bush and the countryside.

These results highlight the value New Zealanders place on our great outdoors and the importance of access. Many of these activities are facilitated by our landholder tradition of granting access when asked, and could not happen without it.

In the face of international trends towards inactivity, rising obesity rates, societal changes and the increasing divide between rural and urban New Zealand, we cannot afford to become complacent or take our heritage, and the unique opportunities it affords us, for granted.

The work of the Commission and its partners plays an important part in safeguarding our access to some of the country's most spectacular locations for recreational pursuits, increasing participation in active recreation and bridging the gap between urban and rural New Zealand.

Research like the Active NZ Survey helps us to see where we're getting it right, as well as the opportunities and challenges for the future. There are many learnings we can take from this latest survey, not least of which are that there is a demand for what we're doing and there are opportunities to do more and reach more people.

For more information about the Active NZ Survey 2013-14, visit the Sport NZ website: