Equipping the people who make recreation happen at Christchurch City Council

February 14, 2019

Christchurch City Council is busy growing and upskilling its sport and recreation workforce, to cater to a city with a big appetite for physical activity and all the benefits it brings.

Jacquie Hibbs, Recreation and Sports manager customer and programmes , says about 3.4 million people come through the doors each year. And that will grow to 5.8 million with new facilities coming on board.

“We’ve got four, multi-purpose sport and recreation centres – Pioneer, Jellie Park, Graham Condon and Taiora QEII. And that will almost double, once we add the central city Metro Sports Facility, a facility in Hornby plus a bespoke pool facility at Linwood.”

As well as aquatics centres, sports fields, courts and stadiums, she says, there are also gyms and group fitness, amazing arts and events, recreation programmes for all ages, and lots of spaces for hire for community events and independent groups like martial arts and dance.

Being an active community has many benefits beyond just increased fitness, Jacquie adds – personal wellbeing, a sense of belonging, social cohesion, mastery of physical skills, increased water safety, and overall better quality of life.

“We see [the recreation and sport on offer] as a vital contribution towards building strong communities, a liveable city and a prosperous economy; it creates diversity, vibrancy, stimulates the economy and creates employment opportunities.”

A big goal for a big team

The job of the 690-strong Recreation and Sports Unit is to get more people more active, more often, says Jacquie. That can mean anything from pointing someone in the direction of the pool, to teaching a spin class, to running a team of lifeguards or producing an event.

It also means listening and understanding the needs of a whole city’s worth of unique individuals.

“So if you don’t want to wear togs, but you want to go swimming – we can help. If you want to be active but you’re not sure how, we’ve got lots of options for you.”

There are flexible payment options and discounts for different groups, she adds, to help break down financial barriers that might stop people from coming along.

Christchurch City Council teaches its rec and sport people to be helpful, positive, personal, proud and confident in all their interactions – both with customers and with each other, Jacquie says.

The workforce has access to a range of on-job qualification with Skills Active, including Pool Lifeguard and Swim Education, Sport and Leisure Operations, Team Leadership, Business Administration and First Line Management.

She says the Council is always mindful of succession planning, and of creating opportunities for staff to step up. Having started in the organisation 19 years ago as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, Jacquie knows firsthand what that’s like.

With the planned expansion of the recreation and sport network, she adds, there is going to be plenty of scope for staff to progress in their careers. So the Skills Active qualifications provide a framework for that growth, and show people a pathway they can follow through the organisation.

Having standardised training across the team set clear expectations from the start and instils health and safety awareness, Jacquie says.

“It gives us consistency in practice and delivery, and we can be confident that that consistency is delivered as an experience to the customer. Of course we are not clones of each other – we bring our own personalities – but it keeps everyone on the same page and it’s an efficient way of working.

“You can have confidence that your colleague is saying the same thing you are, they are there for the same reasons, and they have the same vision and values and way of working.”