A human rights-based approach to the discourses governing active recreation in New Zealand
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Public policy is an ever changing field with practitioners struggling to find the best ways to develop and implement their policies. Auckland City Council's Community Services and Recreation Department is no different. Faced with a rapidly expanding and diverse population, which is also increasingly sedentary and unhealthy, the department wished to explore an approach which would encapsulate and help to solve the issues that they are facing (McDermott, 2009; Rowe, 2008; Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, 2009). A human rights-based approach to public policy development was identified as being part of the answer to Auckland City Council's active recreation challenges. Auckland University of Technology's Institute of Public Policy were contracted to undertake research into this public policy approach, that is increasingly used internationally. Could this be implemented in New Zealand? It is acknowledged that a human rights-based approach to public policy development and implementation can help to promote accountability, empowers and it also involves people in the decision making process and ensures that individuals are not discriminated against (Department of Health, 2007). While a human rights-based approach ensures that international obligations are adhered to, the flow-on effect of implementing a human rights-based approach includes having community "buy-in" to a project or proposal, by making public policy more "person centred" (Department of Health, 2007). Key informant interviews were undertaken in 2009; these highlighted how human rights approaches are currently being implemented in New Zealand, although not necessarily in a methodical or consistent manner. Document analysis was also conducted on key policy documents within New Zealand and the United Kingdom using discourse analysis and a human rights lens. In conclusion it was found that the implementation of a human rights-based approach in Auckland City would help to address the issues presented, such as population changes and inactivity and also help to increase participation amongst non-participants. SPARC's focus has moved towards organised sport, children and youth participation and on elite athletes. Local authorities in New Zealand need to act to ensure that the mental, social, health and economic well-being of their communities is preserved and enhanced through active recreation. Taking a human rights-based approach to active recreation policy development would contribute towards achieving these outcomes.