$25 million relief package has been created by Sport NZ to provide much needed relief for sports and recreation. The package is targeted primarily towards community and regional recreation and sporting bodies who are struggling to stay afloat in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Māori Public Health organisation Hāpai Te Hauora celebrate Sport NZ’s move, understanding that this will come as welcome news to our whānau and communities who hope to take to the courts and get out onto the fields this winter. Hāpai Te Hauora sees this as an opportunity to advocate for a move away from harmful modes of funding community activity.

Hāpai Te Hauora CEO, Selah Hart says, "Sport plays an important role for Māori in maintaining hauora, maintaining whakawhanaungatanga and building strong resilient communities".

"While we empathise with our community sports organisations and the limited funding sources which have been available historically, we believe that the current climate signals the potential for positive change. The unprecedented changes represented by the country’s response to COVID-19 presents an opportunity to support community and grassroots sport and recreation to liberate themselves from gambling funding. We recognise that most community sports organisations would not choose to receive funding which is derived from activities which harm the community - like gambling - but there have been few alternatives available to them until now," says Hart.

Community and grassroots level organisations in particular are feeling the impacts of the nationwide shutdown, through the loss of membership fees and the dwindling of gaming funds leaving many organisations out of pocket. This relief will be provided via the $15 million Community Resilience Fund. Sports clubs will be able to apply to a $15 million community fund for up to $1,000 while regional bodies can apply for up to $40,000.

In 2018 - 2019, New Zealanders spent over $2 billion on gambling with almost 40% or $924 million of the revenue coming from pokies in 'class four' venues. Gaming machines in pubs and clubs (i.e. outside a casino) represent 'Class 4' gambling, which the Gambling Act 2003 classifies as high-risk, high-turnover gambling. Data published on the DIA website shows us that most of New Zealand’s pokie machines are concentrated in low socioeconomic deciles.

Public Health Advisor for Prevention and Minimisation of Gambling Harm, Tara Dymus says, "We understand that Māori are vulnerable to the effects of gambling harm, due to the oversaturation of pokie venues in communities where our whānau Māori live". While pokie funding goes a long way to fund many positive kaupapa, it comes at the detriment of already vulnerable whānau. COVID-19 has shown the unsustainability of relying on Class 4 gambling funds as a funding model".

"We can see what the government can do given the motivation, there is an opportunity for government to step in to safeguard the future of sport and recreation in Aotearoa," says Dymus.