Creating connections ... Sport Waitaki's Te Ora Tinana Project was unveiled at Waitaki Boys' High School last Friday by (from left) Haydon Richards, Pip Sutton and Jane Taafaki. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

A Sport Waitaki study has revealed a lack of access to recreational opportunities is a major barrier for Oamaru’s priority groups to get active.

Launched at a community hui last Friday, the Te Ora Tinana Project has been a seven-month needs assessment for Maori, Pasifika and people with disabilities requirements for play, active recreation and sport.

Sport Waitaki co›ordinator Pip Sutton oversaw the project, interviewing support workers, managers, and people with disabilities. Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group member Jane Taafaki interviewed Pasifika families and individuals and Te Are Whetu Consultancy owner Haydon Richards held a hui and interviewed Maori in the community.

Sutton said key findings revealed most Maori and Pasifika families, and people with disabilities, lived in Oamaru North, but the infrastructure for recreation there was minimal.

Requests ranged from covered picnic/barbecue areas, traditional Maori games, Pasifika wellness programmes and financial support, to traffic, footpath and school zone safety.

The results, collated in an 18›page document, were not a total surprise, but they gave Sport Waitaki some hard evidence with which to move forward.

‘‘Knowledge and evidence is a lot more powerful than assumptions,’’ Sutton said.

‘‘You can assume anything but when it’s literally come from them themselves it just means you can actually have a bit of confidence that you are doing something good for the community.’’

It also gave Sport Waitaki direction on how to help the priority groups to get more active — that was key for Sutton.

‘‘It is just ensuring that these groups have a voice around the table and that it’s being listened to.’’

Richards said Maori wanted more access to funding and access to traditional games. Waka ama, or outrigger canoes, was growing in popularity throughout New Zealand, but Oamaru needed people in the community to assist with the sport.

‘‘It would be great if the [Waitaki District Council] could fund some of that and bring some people in because it’s a great way too for rangatahi to connect to their culture too,’’ Richards said.

Taafaki interviewed 44 Pasifika individuals and families, who all lived in Oamaru North, and they did not use the ‘‘full extent’’ of recreational opportunities in the district, such as the Waitaki Aquatic Centre and gyms, due to cost.

Older respondents said they did not walk around their neighbourhoods due to uneven footpaths, and required more outdoor spaces, such as sport courts.

‘‘Really, just having more publicly accessible places would do a lot towards promoting movement and play for kids and play for adults because Pasifika adults do like to engage in team sports,’’ Taafaki said.

Pasifika people also wanted to have a neutral space, not affiliated to achurch, to celebrate their culture, and hold dance and music events for the community.

Sutton said she was taking action on the recommendations. Volleyball leagues for rangatahi (young people) were being organised, and education for applying for funding would be provided.

A database of all sporting clubs, activities and events in the district was being created — which would benefit the whole community, Sutton said.

Long-term goals included working alongside the Ministry of Education to host Maori traditional games, particularly in schools, and working on infrastructure.

‘‘That’s something that’s just going to keep getting pushed and pushed.’’

Working on the project had been ‘‘awesome’’ and the groups were stoked to be involved, she said.

The Te Ora Tinana Project document will be posted on the Sport Otago website.