Para table tennis pilots are due to be held in Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato ©Halberg Foundation/Photosport NZ

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) has announced the launch of a new initiative to enhance participation in athletics and table tennis.

The "Regional Community Para Sport Pilots" have been created by the PNZ and are set to benefit six regions of New Zealand.

Disabled people in Gisborne, Northland and Southland are due to get more opportunities to participate in Para athletics courtesy of the PNZ-funded pilots scheduled to take place from October.

The pilot programmes are set to be held in Para table tennis in Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato in the "second quarter of 2024".

Both pilots are due to be delivered over an eight-week period.

"Athletics New Zealand is very excited to be a recipient of the Paralympics New Zealand Regional Community Para Sport Pilot across the Gisborne, Northland, and Southland regions in 2023," said Peter Pfitzinger, chief executive of Athletics New Zealand.

"There has been considerable regional growth in community athletics in recent years.

"This pilot will enable us to establish a sustainable programme and legacy by working with clubs and centres in these regions.

"These pilot projects will complement our Disability Inclusion Fund projects."

PNZ chief executive Fiona Allan said there had been a big demand for the pilot programmes ©Getty Images
PNZ chief executive Fiona Allan said there had been a big demand for the pilot programmes ©Getty Images

Table Tennis New Zealand’s chief executive Warren Ogilvie added: "Table tennis is a great sport for disabled participants; it is a sport for all, for life.

"It is the strategy of Table Tennis New Zealand to be inclusive - to provide opportunities for everyone involved in our sport to excel and achieve their personal goals.

"This new partnership with PNZ will improve the capability of table tennis organisations with knowledge sharing and increased resource provision to enhance opportunities for disabled participants."

The Regional Community Para Sport Pilots are set to bring together national and regional sports organisations with clubs, National Federations or similar organisations.

PNZ said the organisations will take a "community co-design approach" to create the pilots in athletics and table tennis.

"PNZ is pleased by the level of interest within the community to stage Regional Community Para Sport Pilots," said PNZ chief executive Fiona Allan.

"The demand for these pilot programmes illustrates that there is further opportunity and aspiration to grow Para sport throughout New Zealand.

"With this funding, we will see a real change in the quality of Para sport opportunities which are available and promoted to disabled people and their families.

"Lives are transformed by Para sport, whether that’s at the Paralympic Games or through participation at the local table tennis club, athletics club or regional Para federations or other similar organisations.

"These pilots are a critical step to assist in growing sustainable Para sport programmes."