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Sport NZ Announces 2023 Sport and Recreation Award Winners

Sport NZ Announces 2023 Sport and Recreation Award Winners

24 July 2023
Life time achievement winners with CE Raelene Castle

Sport NZ has tonight recognised the winners of the annual New Zealand Sport and Recreation awards as part of its annual conference in Auckland.

Around 300 people, including leaders from across the sector, gathered at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland to acknowledge and congratulate the winners, all of whom are instrumental in supporting New Zealanders to be physically active.

“Tonight’s event is about recognising and celebrating the achievements of everyone within our sector and their amazing mahi.  The passion and dedication they display in delivering that mahi throughout Aotearoa is inspiring,” says Sport NZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle.

“These people work tirelessly to enable hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders to be physically active.

“We would also like to acknowledge the impact that the recent weather events have had on the sector, particularly those organisations in the North Island who have been affected.  The resilience that has been shown as we continue to navigate these unprecedented events, is remarkable.”

“We are incredibly impressed with the calibre of entries for the awards, and I would like to congratulate not just the finalists and winners, but everyone who entered.

The awards night coincides with Sport NZ’s Connections Conference which is held annually for sector leaders.  This year the conference is themed ‘Connections 2023 – Shaping the future of play, active recreation and sport’. Ko te pae tawhiti, whāia kia tata Ko te pae tata, whakamaua kia tina – Seek out distant horizons, and cherish those you attain.

Sport NZ received a record 65 entries across eight categories for the awards.  A full list of winners can be found below.


The New Zealand Sport and Recreation Award winners for 2023 are: 

Surf Lifesaving NZ + Restaurant Brands

Last summer, Restaurant Brands, through KFC, celebrated 10 years of a partnership with Surf Life Saving New Zealand that supports 4300 volunteer lifeguards at 74 Surf Life Saving Clubs across Aotearoa. 

Underpinned annually by a TV commercial and bucket campaign, the two organisations work closely, collaboratively and authentically to promote key messaging. Right down to rattling the red buckets, they are an active partner, always searching for more ways to help raise funds. 

Harbour Sport

Forging strong, face-to-face relationships is the foundation of the pastoral care that sees Harbour Sport work collaboratively with their communities to zero in on unique barriers to participation. 

Whether it’s empowering Pupuke Golf Club’s Korean and Chinese members to have a voice at their club’s strategic level; or bringing together the shore’s Pasifika community under a sport and recreation umbrella; or promoting more inclusive environments for female rugby players, the outcomes of these hui have invariably led to game-changing empowerment for local participants in their favourite activities.

Sport Auckland – Play Festival

An inspired partnership between Sport Auckland and Stanhope Road Primary School led to Tamaki Makaurau's first ‘Neighbourhood Play System”, where the goal was to create inclusive, accessible play opportunities for the Stanhope Road Primary community, which represents 60 ethnicities, and where 13 percent of tamariki identify as Māori. 

Sport Auckland laid the foundation for the successful model by listening to the diverse voices of local tamariki, to fully understand barriers and shape the outcome. Taking the time to undertake whakawhanaungatanga with tamariki created a shared sense of purpose, as well as trust. 

Mitre 10 New Zealand – Helping Hands: Project Playground

Research shows that play increases the mental health and happiness of our tamariki, yet some 50 percent aren’t actively playing every day. Mitre 10’s Helping Hands: Project Playground is helping to change that by focusing on the schools most in need. 

Schools were invited to nominate their playgrounds or play spaces that were crying out for transformation. Six new playgrounds have been fully built, and there are more in the pipeline — from Kaikohe to Ahuriri Hawke’s Bay, Tāmaki Makaurau West Auckland to Ōtepoti Dunedin. 

Mitre 10 took its corporate vision of ‘inspiring Kiwis to love where they live, work and play’ to the next level, while addressing an important funding challenge for schools and their wider communities. 

Kuruho Wereta — Recreation Aotearoa

In the short time since becoming Recreation Aotearoa’s first Kaiwhakahaere Whaihua Māori — Manager Māori Outcomes last year, Kuruho Wereta has made an outstanding difference to his organisation’s people.

His analogy is the waka hourua, the twin-hulled waka carrying us all forward. The papanoho, the platform between the hulls, must be strong.

Uniting people using Te Tiriti-based approaches is central to Kuruho's work. His ability to connect and communicate both worlds with empathy, in a way that educates and entertains, inspires internal and external stakeholders.

Nic Cavanagh – Snow Sports NZ

When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, many in sport had to become experts in managing the multiple curve balls, evolving protocols, athlete wellbeing and travel challenges that it presented.  Nic Cavanagh did all this as a new CEO, proving himself to be a strong and dependable navigator for his Snow Sports NZ team.

Showing true leadership, and dedication, Nic rose to every new challenge to get his team to where they needed to be — while also responsible for helping develop the high performance programme itself.  

The result was New Zealand’s most successful Winter Olympics campaign: two gold medals, and one silver medal, as well as the most successful Winter Paralympics in 20 years. This success has increased the sport’s funding and vitally strengthened its future.

Kī o Rahi ki Waitaha 
Based in the Waitahi region of Te Waipounamu South Island, Kī o Rahi ki Waitaha is not your traditional RSO, but a collective of passionate individuals and organisations who facilitate the playing and spread of the great Māori ball game, Kī o Rahi, further into the community. 
Rules are not set in stone. Te reo is used to keep score, and the pou that are central to point-scoring are named after local maunga — a way of recognising awa hapū, even in contemporary urban marae settings. 
Fun, health and confidence are all underpinned by an authentically Māori game that fosters Māori identity and connection. 
Grant Quinn – Services to Special Olympics
Celia Patrick ONZM – Services to Tennis
Bob Leveloff MNZM – Services to Softball


Media contact:
Michelle Pickles
Group Media Manager
021 833 244

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