Opinion by Ben Hope
New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, and rates continue to increase. One in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is classified as obese and one in ten children.
Government needs to give far greater priority to outdoor recreation in order to counter New Zealand’s bulging rise in obesity.
Arguably government policies directly or indirectly have reduced encouragement for New Zealanders to actively participate in outdoor recreation such as tramping, fishing, hunting and other forms of outdoor recreation.
NZ’s high obesity ranking is a national disgrace and particularly a reflection of the low ranking outdoor recreation has in the Department of Conservation policies and priorities and various government policies that erode outdoor resources and opportunities for the public.
Government policies such as widespread blanket spreading of poisons like 1080, over-fishing of and mismanagement of inshore fisheries, failure by DOC to maintain huts and tracks in mountains, allowing foreign purchasers of back country to erect locked gates and commercial exploitation of public fishing and hunting values as examples of adverse impact on outdoor recreation.
Costly Health Issue
Besides obesity was a major public health issue in New Zealand, putting an avoidable burden on health services and costing more of the public’s money.
Economically the swelling obesity rate is a costly disaster for the creaky health system.
Government poured money into elite sports for a few champions but ignored the needs of the 5 million Kiwis.
Government even willingly donates tens of millions of dollars to an ultra-rich boys‘ yacht race. A glaring example of hopelessly wrong priorities.
CORANZ at the last election sent a charter to political parties to assess outdoor recreation and environmental policies. One of the key priority areas was to review the Department of Conservation and to insert recreation into the name making it the Department of Conservation and Outdoor Recreation (DOCOR).
In this way DOC would be tangibly reminded of its statutory obligations to outdoor recreation which since it’s formation in 1988 it has increasingly shoved further into the back shelf.