Skip to: Navigation | Content | Footer and contacts

Your browser does not appear to support CSS, or you have turned CSS off. Please read our page on accessibility.


Sport, Fitness and Leisure

Source: New Zealand Official Yearbook 2000. Please note, this information may now be out of date.

Sport, fitness and leisure have played an important part in creating and shaping New Zealand's national image. New Zealand is perhaps best known for the calibre of its international sportspeople. Traditionally New Zealanders have excelled in rugby union, which is regarded as the national sport, and track and field athletics. However, Sir Edmund Hillary, who with Sherpa Tensing Norgay in 1953 was the first to climb Mount Everest, probably remains New Zealand's best internationally known sportsman. Outdoor recreation is popular due to the country's relatively pristine environment and scenic beauty.

Sport and leisure providers

Hillary Commission for Sport, Fitness and Leisure: Te Kömihana Häkinakina a Hillary i Enei Rä

The Hillary Commission is the Crown agency responsible for supporting sport and active living in New Zealand. The commission initiates, supports and facilitates programmes and policies aimed at raising the quantity and quality of active participation in sport, fitness and leisure among all age groups of New Zealanders, at all levels of competence. In the year to June 1999, the commission invested $36.1 million into sport and active living activities.

The commission's nationwide 1997 Sport and Physical Activity Survey researched over 5,400 adults (18 years and over) and 1,700 young people (5-17-year-olds) about how active they are. Two out of three people over the age of five are active in their leisure time. Four out of 10 young people (44 percent) and just over half the adults (52 percent) are highly active, spending five or more hours a week on sport and active leisure.

Almost 4 out of 10 adults are members of a club or gym (36 percent) and 2 out of 10 adults belong to a sports club. A lot more men (29 percent) belong to sports clubs than women (16 percent). Young adults (18-24-year-olds) are more likely to belong to a sports club than older people (20 percent).

The same survey shows that participation rates are exceptionally high for 5-17-year-olds. A huge 93 percent of young people take part in sport and active leisure. Participation rates are 95 percent for boys and 91 percent for girls.

Hillary Sports Commission

Central government

A wide array of government departments, corporations and statutory bodies are concerned with recreation. The Department of Conservation is, for example, a principal land manager in the sphere of outdoor recreation. The Department of Internal Affairs administers a number of programmes to help local authorities and community organisations provide for the needs of young people.

Department of Conservation

Department of Internal Affairs

Local government

City and district councils are the biggest investors in sport and active living. Latest research estimates local government spent $300 million providing facilities and services for New Zealanders.

The Hillary Commission operates the Community Sport Fund which gives local authorities $1.23 per capita for sports clubs and active leisure organisations in their area. Base funding of $22,000 is available for authorities which would not reach that amount under the $1.23 per capita system.

The Department of Internal Affairs administers the Community Facilities Fund. This provides funding for major sports and recreation facilities.

The Creative Community Scheme is administered by Creative New Zealand. It funds local authorities at the rate of $0.06 per capita and has a base or minimum funding level of $5,000. The scheme funds programmes which primarily benefit the local community.

Sports organisations

The New Zealand Assembly for Sport

The New Zealand Assembly for Sport, which in 1997/98 represented over 100 national associations, claims a collective membership of 1.5 million. The assembly provides advocacy and information services, and sports law resources.

New Zealand Sports Foundation

The foundation receives private and public sector funding to assist New Zealand's high performance sportspeople to succeed at an international level. The foundation works with current and potential athletes in cooperation with the Hillary Commission, the New Zealand Olympic Committee, the corporate sector, national sports organisations and coaches.

In the 1999/2000 year the foundation will distribute $14.7 million in grants to benefit New Zealand high performance sport. The foundation will also establish a new network of high performance sports centres around New Zealand. The centres will enable more athletes and coaches in a greater variety of sports to access increased services from sports medicine, sports science and career development.

New Zealand Academy of Sport

New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC)

The NZOC oversees the administration, selection, development and funding of teams that compete at Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Forty-one sports federations are members of the NZOC.

Educational and promotional activities are a major part of the committee's function.

New Zealand Olympic Committee

Outdoor leisure activities – fishing, hunting, skiing etc

Trout and salmon fishing

Rainbow and brown trout are found in the lakes and rivers of the North Island, and the lakes of the South Island. The South Island also has sea-run brown trout in west coast rivers, sea-run quinnat salmon in east coast rivers and land-locked salmon.

A licence is required for trout and salmon fishing. With the exception of the Lake Taupo Fishery, which is managed by the Department of Conservation, trout and salmon fisheries are managed by Fish and Game New Zealand through its 12 regional fish and game councils. Fish and Game New Zealand can provide useful information about hunting and angling regulations, access and codes of conduct.

Big-game fishing

The warm waters off the east coast of the North Island provide some of the best surf, line and spear fishing in the world. The main bases for line fishing from charter boats are at Whangaroa, Bay of Islands (Russell, Otehei Bay, and Waitangi), Tutukaka, Mercury Bay (Whitianga), and Tauranga (Mayor Island).

The most prized catches are broadbill, black marlin, striped marlin and blue marlin, while other types of big-game fish found in New Zealand waters are mainly tiger shark, hammerhead shark, mako shark, thresher shark, kingfish (yellow tail), and tuna. The best catches are usually made in February but fishing is good from December to April.

Shooting and hunting

The principal game birds are duck, swan, pheasant, quail, geese and chukor, but the sport is limited. The main season usually extends about six to eight weeks depending on the fish and game region. By tradition the season starts on the first weekend of May.

There are few restrictions on big game hunting. Generally speaking there is no limit on the number of game animals that can be taken, no licence requirement and the season is open for most species all year round. Deer of several species, chamois, thar, wild pigs, goats and wallaby are numerous in several areas. Department of Conservation offices provide hunting permits for people wanting to hunt on conservation land. For tourists and inexperienced hunters, the services of an experienced guide are recommended. For further information contact the Department of Conservation.

Fish and Game New Zealand

Skiing and snowboarding

The snowsports season in New Zealand extends from June to late October at ski areas in the North and South Islands. New Zealand has 12 commercial ski areas, 11 club ski fields and one commercial cross-country ski area. Guided heliskiing and ski touring are also available. Many areas have snowmaking equipment to ensure reliable snow depth and quality.

International snowsports competitions are held at Mount Hutt, Whakapapa, Coronet Peak, Cardrona, Turoa, and Mt Dobson. This includes Continental cups and International Ski Federation (FIS) level races and events held annually.

Mountaineering and tramping

New Zealand has many walking tracks through beautiful scenery ranging from half-day family-oriented walks to challenging tramps in back-country and alpine isolation. Climbing (both rock and ice) is popular. Information on mountaineering and tramping is available through commercial guiding companies and the Department of Conservation.

The Great Walks are New Zealand's most famous tracks. They include: Lake Waikaremoana Track, Tongariro Northern Circuit, Abel Tasman Coast Track, Heaphy Track, Routeburn Track, Milford Track, Kepler Track, Rakiura Track, and Whanganui Journey on the Whanganui River. Most of these tracks take two to four days to complete and are well marked. Huts and campsites are provided for overnight accommodation.

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is the most popular of the tracks with around 24,000 overnight visitors per year.

Department of Conservation


Cycling New Zealand has about 2,000 licensed participants belonging to 49 clubs throughout the country. There are around 150 major open events during the year, apart from club racing which caters for racing at entry level. The New Zealand Mountain Bike Association has 500 licensed competitors and BMX New Zealand around 1,000 licensed competitors.

Cycling New Zealand Federation Inc.

Racing and gaming


New Zealand has 72 thoroughbred, 50 harness and nine greyhound racing clubs.

There is also a very strong horse breeding sector. Export of thoroughbred horses is worth around $100 million per year, with Australia and Asian countries being the main markets.


On and off-course betting on racing in New Zealand is conducted through the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB). Today there are 600 TAB outlets around the country. Total TAB bets for the year ended 31 July 2000 were: off-course racing 1,011.4 million; on-course racing $80.6 million; and sports $66.5 million.

The Internet enables the New Zealand TAB to compete for a share of the international racing and sports betting market. Already the TAB website has a customer base made up of bettors from over 70 countries.

Gaming statistics 1996–98

Year ended 30 June
















NZ Lotteries Commission












Gaming machines (outside casinos) Expenditure




Casinos Expenditure




Total Expenditure




Source: Department of Internal Affairs, Policy Group

is the total (gross) amount wagered by punters and is published by the Lotteries Commission and racing industry. It includes a 'churn' factor or re-investment where the same dollar is counted more than once. This is particularly relevant for rapid re-investment forms of gaming like gaming machines or race betting; if for instance a player has $20 to spend on a gaming machine and plays until the full $20 is lost it is likely that this $20 will be recorded on the machine's meters as $120 or more of turnover (gross amount wagered). Turnover is not an indicator of the amount spent by players or of the profit of the operator.
Gross Profit
and Expenditure are interchangeable terms which means gross amount wagered minus the amount paid out or credited as prizes or dividends. Expenditure is the amount lost or spent by players or the gross profit of the gaming operator. In the above example, the gross profit calculated by the machine meters will be $20.
Gaming machine
data is estimated using gaming machine duty paid to the IRD plus information collected by the Department of Internal Affairs gaming regulatory group. The duty rate of 20 percent is used to estimate expenditure. Gaming machine turnover is calculated by applying a percentage return to players to the expenditure estimate, of 85 percent in 1996 and 88 percent from 1997, resulting in turnover or gross amount wagered for 1996: $1,313m; 1997: $1,913m; 1998: $2,400m.
estimated gross amount wagered for 1996: $914m; 1997: $1,883m; 1998: $1,914m. Casinos pay GST on gross profit and corporate tax on net taxable income (gaming duty is deductible for corporate tax purposes).
data includes the introduction of new products, namely from 1996 inclusive fixed odds and totalisator sports betting ($4.846 million in 1996), and from 1997 inclusive fixed odds race betting.
licensed forms of gaming (housie, raffles, etc) are not included in the above table. Turnover is approximately $65 million, of which approximately $45 million relates to housie.
The department takes no responsibility for the accuracy of these statistics or any decisions made on the basis of this information.

Lotteries and gaming

Under the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1977 gambling may only be run to benefit charities and the community. Larger sites and lotteries need to be licensed, smaller ones are exempt providing they meet the requirements of the act.

New Zealand Lotteries Commission

The commission is responsible under the Gaming and Lotteries Act for promoting and conducting New Zealand lotteries – Lotto, Lotto Strike, Instant Kiwi, Daily Keno and TeleBingo. Net profits from these are paid to the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board for distribution to the community.

The commission's most popular game is Lotto. It is played regularly by some 70 percent of the adult population of New Zealand. Typically, out of every dollar of sales, some 55 cents is paid in prizes; 21cents goes to the Lottery Grants Board; 10 cents is paid in taxes; 7 cents is paid in commission to Lotto shops; and 7 cents pays the expenses.

In the financial year ended 30 June 1999, sales were $643.7 million; prizes were $356.3 million; $138 million was paid to the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board; tax paid was $64.4 million; retail commission was $45 million; and expenses were $43.3 million.

The New Zealand Lottery Grants Board: Te Puna Tahua

The New Zealand Lottery Grants Board distributes lottery profits as grants to arts, sports, welfare, recreation, environment, heritage, research and community projects which do not receive funding directly from any other government source.

Casino Control Authority

The main functions of the Casino Control Authority are to consider applications and grant casino licences, to set a casino supervision policy, and to advise the Minister of Internal Affairs on the act and its regulations. Currently there are four casinos operating in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown. Funding for the authority comes from levies imposed on casino premises licence holders. In the year to June 2000 this totalled $4.4 million.

The Department of Internal Affairs

Quick Facts - Industries

back to top

Footer and contacts

Please feel free to contact our Information Centre

Information Centre:

Phone: 0508 525 525 (toll free within New Zealand)
Fax: +64 4 931 4079


Aorangi House
85 Molesworth St
PO Box 2922


UniServices House
70 Symonds Street
Private Bag 92003


Dollan House
401 Madras Street
Private Bag 4741

Hours: 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).