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Active NZ: Changes in Participation

Active NZ: Changes in Participation

Active NZ: Changes in Participation

Active NZ: Changes in Participation

This report provides an update on the main participation indicators in play, active recreation, and sport in 2021 for New Zealanders aged 5-plus, focusing on changes between pre-pandemic participation levels in 2019 and 2021 levels. It highlights changes in ways of participating and types of sports and activities participated in, as well as changes in barriers to participating and in selected attitudes. 


  • COVID-19 pandemic has altered participation levels and preferences.  
  • Participation in organised sport has been most negatively impacted, affecting some population groups more than others, depending on the extent to which organised participation contributes to overall levels of physical activity.  
  • This drop in organised sport participation has more severely affected levels of participation for young people than adults.  
  • This decrease has increased inequities in the system for young Māori and Pacific, young people from high deprivation areas, and young males more than females.  
  • An increase in informal activity has positively impacted young females’ participation, closing the gender gap in time spent being active in 2021 – except for young people between ages 15 and 17 where a gender gap remains.  
  • While the gender gap closed (mostly) among young people, inequity increased for adult females in time spent being active and in competitive participation.  
  • Inequity increased further for Pacific adults, with Pacific being the only ethnicity to show no increase in any of the four key participation indicators in 2021.  
  • A watching brief will be in place for how well participation in organised activities, especially through competitions or tournaments, recovers. This is particularly important considering a potential weakening of the relationship young people have with organised participation.  
  • For adults, the context for participation in 2021 appears to have stimulated participation in more individualised and flexible activities and self-monitoring using technology. It will be interesting to see how this continues to affect patterns of activity. 
Report and data tables
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Additional reports and support
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