Abstract Sport policies are underpinned by particular interpretive frameworks or paradigms. These paradigms shape: a) the construction of policy problems, b) the alternative approaches to resolving these problems and c) what is considered to be an acceptable government intervention. This article investigates how a policy paradigm shaped the findings and recommendations of New Zealand’s Ministerial Taskforce on Sport, Fitness and Leisure. Using empirical data gathered from observations of the Taskforce’s consultations, interviews with Taskforce members and a review of public submissions, it is argued that a paradigm (stressing rationalization and integration) served as the basis for recommendations to reduce the number of regional sports trusts, to centralize control over the sector and to coordinate the administration of sport. Two fundamental contradictions and paradoxes arising from this paradigm shift are discussed. The first notes the historical contingencies that gave rise to the problem of fragmented sport delivery structures, including government’s preference for contractual agreements and decentralized control. The second examines the appropriateness of centralizing powers given the inherent need for specialized (and autonomous) delivery mechanisms. This study’s focus on paradigms helps to explain how policies can alter institutional relations and the lived world of actors with respect to their identities, opportunities and capacities to act
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