As well as being something Kiwis love to do, sport and recreation also make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economy, according to new research.

The research, released by Sport New Zealand today, shows that the economic value of the wider sport and recreation sector is estimated at $4.9 billion per annum, which equates to a 2.3 percent contribution to our GDP.

The Economic Value of Sport and Outdoor Recreation to New Zealand report is an update to 2011 data and has been undertaken by the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University.

The report also shows that the sport and recreation paid workforce has grown by 11.5 percent since the 2006 census; adult volunteers contribute in excess of 67 million hours of time over a year across the sector; and that sport and outdoor recreation are important aspects of the experience of international tourists.

"This research shows just how important sport and recreation is to New Zealand. We know it contributes much to the lives of individuals, to communities and to society in general. This research shows that the economic contribution is also significant," said Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin.

"Sport and recreation is a significant economic contributor across many areas such as employment, construction, tourism and events. So it is important that when making decisions about investment and opportunity in the sport and recreation sector that we keep the economic impacts in mind as well."

The research released today incorporates Census data from Statistics New Zealand which shows 53,904 people were employed in sport or recreation industries or sport and recreation occupations, an 11.5 percent increase between 2006 and 2011. The occupations to show the largest increases were fitness instructors, swimming coaches or instructors, and other sports coaches or instructors.

Also highlighted in the research is the significant and valuable contribution volunteers make to the sport and recreation sector. Data from the Active NZ 2013/14 Survey shows close to 1 million adults volunteered 67.6 million hours of time over 12 months, a significant increase when compared to the 51.3 million volunteer hours recorded in the 2007/08 survey. In dollar terms, the contribution of volunteers in the latest survey is estimated at $1,030.5 million.

"I am encouraged by the growth in volunteer hours because sport in New Zealand is not possible without volunteers. Their contribution to growing sport and recreation is invaluable and is the lifeblood of our community sport system."

Sport and recreation is also an important contributor to the tourism sector. In 2014, 74.2 percent of tourists reported they had gone for a walk, hike, trek or tramp. In the same period 56.2 percent reported they had visited a natural attraction; 44.6 percent reported they had spent time at a beach; and 25.8 percent had been to a national park.

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