Enhancing sport and recreation participation by indigenous people has been used as a tool to increase their physical activity and to rectify worrying health trends like body weight increases and increases in the incidence of diabetes. There are few examples of comprehensive country-wide programmes and New Zealand’s approach was analysed in this study.


The approach to enhancing physical activity by Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous population, was analysed in terms of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Government legislation, policy, objectives and programme documents were analysed and government physical activity trend information interpreted. Programme managers were interviewed regarding the nature of the programme interventions.


Public policy supporting activity enhancement includes: the Sport and Recreation Act (2002), the New Zealand Health Strategy (2000)[1] and the 2003 Healthy Eating/Healthy Action framework[2]. The SPARC (Sport and Recreation New Zealand) He Oranga Poutama programme began in 1997 and involves coordinators (kaiwhakahaere) using existing Maori hierarchies and social settings (including Marae), capacity building for Maori, encouraging role modelling by elders (kamatua) and facilitating Marae-based sports and recreation events, and walks (hikoi). These initiatives are examples of the elements of the Ottawa Charter. In terms of monitoring trends, over the period 1997 to 2001, SPARC [3] data shows that there was no change in the proportion of Maori adults meeting recommended physical activity guidelines through sport and recreation (67%) whereas there has been a significant decrease in the proportion of young Maori (5-17 year olds) who were sufficiently active (75% in 1997, 66% in 2001).

Discussion / Conclusions

New Zealand’s sport and recreation program to enhance physical activity by Maori does include elements of the Ottawa Charter. A focus on Maori young people is needed to rectify the worrying activity trends.


[1].Minister of Health. (2000). The New Zealand Health Strategy. Wellington, Ministry of Health.
[2].Ministry Of Health. (2003). Healthy Eating-Healthy Action. A Strategic Framework. Wellington, Ministry of Health.
[3]. SPARC. (2003). SPARC Facts. Wellington, SPARC.