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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Active New Zealand Survey?

The Active New Zealand Survey is an in-depth, comprehensive snapshot of the participation levels in sport, recreation and physical activities of New Zealand adults aged 16 years and above.

How was the survey done?

A total of 4,443 face-to-face interviews with New Zealanders aged 16 and above were completed over 12 months (beginning in March 2007).

The data were collected over 12 months to truly reflect sport, recreation and physical activity levels rather than a point-in-time survey which could be skewed by seasonal factors.

Face-to-face nationwide surveys are time and labour intensive undertakings but produce more robust data than telephone surveys. The data has been weighted to be representative of the total New Zealand population. As part of the interview, participants reported their physical activity involvement over the seven days preceding the day of the interview.

The comprehensive nature of the data collection makes this the most in-depth physical activity and participation survey of its kind done in New Zealand.

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Why did SPARC do the survey?

SPARC and the sport and recreation sector requires accurate and detailed information in order to make informed decisions on investment to promote physical activity and participation.

As well as SPARC, the information will be used by a wide range of organisations – national and regional sports organisations, national and regional recreation organisations, regional and local territorial authorities, regional sports trusts, government ministries and agencies. The media and the public will find the survey a rich source of information as well.

Has such a survey been done before?

The Hillary Commission conducted a survey in 1997/98 and repeated it during the following two years. However, the methodology has been significantly overhauled since then to ensure the data is more comprehensive, robust and accurate. This is the first such survey conducted by SPARC since the creation of the Crown agency in 2003 and will be used as the baseline survey for the organisation. SPARC spent considerable time ensuring the survey design and methodology was robust to ensure it would provide in-depth information which would be more informative for the sport and recreation sector. Successive surveys are anticipated to be conducted every four years.

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How is it different to previous surveys?

The Active New Zealand Survey has been extensively redesigned compared to the Hillary Commission conducted surveys.

  2000/01 New Zealand Sport & Physical Activity Survey 2007/08 Active NZ Survey

Measurement tool(s)

Sport and Physical Activity Survey

Modified version of the Sport and Recreation Survey AND

a seven-day physical activity recall diary.

Sample Population

Children (five to 17 years old) and adults (18 years old plus)

Adults only (16 years old and over)

Data Collection

Self-report (adult data)

Parental proxy reports (child data)

Self-report (adult data)

The Active New Zealand Survey is unique to other national surveys of physical activity as it measures all contexts of physical activity, active transport, occupation or unpaid work/other activities and the duration and intensity and type of activity using a seven day recall diary.

The survey’s methodology has been developed using leading internal expertise in the field, pre-testing and validation studies have been undertaken, and it is of an international standard.

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Why have you surveyed people 16 years plus and not children?

Collecting reliable data on children’s physical activity using subjective measure is difficult. Interviewing children would have raised methodological, logistical and ethical issues. While not covering young children, to help fill this vacuum of evidence, SPARC was one of several government agencies involved in Youth 07, a health and wellbeing survey of New Zealand’s high school students.

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Can I compare the Active NZ Survey to previous surveys?

As this is a new instrument the data will not be directly comparable to previous surveys due to methodological differences. Where we can compare data between the two surveys we have done so to provide perspective. But it will be directly comparable to future surveys using the same methodology. The broad areas of comparison are in the following categories:

  • percentage of New Zealand adults who participated in at least one sport or recreation activity over the past 12 months.
  • percentage of New Zealand adults who had been volunteers for a sport or recreation activity over the past 12 months.
  • percentage of New Zealand adults who had been members of clubs/centres to participate in a sport or recreation activity.

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What will SPARC do with the information?

The Active New Zealand Survey will provide new benchmark figures to understand trends when future surveys are carried out. This national picture of activity will indicate opportunities for improvement, and will be a guide to setting future goals and implementing new initiatives. Its information will help with the development and improvement of recreation and sport programmes. Survey findings are being sent to regional sports trusts, national sport organisations and national recreational organisations and Government agencies involved which have an interest in sport and recreation.

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When is more information coming out?

During 2009, individual factsheets and profiles will be developed and when combined these will form the comprehensive report of sport, recreation and physical activity among New Zealand adults. Specific topic areas for which factsheets or profiles may be developed include demographic factsheets (i.e. age), a volunteer profile and factsheets on specific sport and recreation activities.

When are you doing another survey?

The next survey is planned for 2012.

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Why are ‘non-sporting’ activities such as gardening included in the survey?

As part of the Active New Zealand Survey, adult New Zealanders were asked what they did to be active. The key questions relate to whether New Zealanders are being active and what they are doing to achieve (or not) the national physical activity guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on five or more days of the week. A 77-year-old grandmother might be into gardening and walking while a 17-year-old high school student could be keen on basketball and rugby – with both young and old indulging in legitimate forms of physical activity.

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Is the ‘most popular activities’ list an accurate measure of membership of those activities?

No. The Active New Zealand Survey is not a membership survey of particular sport or recreation clubs/organisations. It surveys what New Zealanders say they do to be active. For example not all people who indicate they swim would be members of a swimming club. It is also important to remember this survey is of adults only and does not include people aged under 16 years of age. Membership figures should be sought from the appropriate national sport or recreation organisation.

Isn’t SPARC’s focus on sport and recreation rather than ‘pastimes’ such as gardening?

Yes. SPARC is committed to encouraging New Zealanders to participate in sport and recreation, recognise the benefits that can be achieved, and help ensure New Zealanders have the opportunities to participate. This survey helps SPARC and stakeholders identify areas where resources need to go to continue to meet those aims.

What is encouraging is that of the 48.2 percent of New Zealanders who met the `30 minutes a day’ moderate intensity physical activity target, 42.2% met this guideline through their sport and recreation activity. This confirms that sport and recreation continues to be the major avenue for New Zealanders to be active.

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Where can I find out more about the Active New Zealand Survey?

The full national report is posted on this website.

For media queries, please contact our communications staff:

John Tulloch (; 021 953 349)

Sue Eden ( ; 021 490 797