For Times They Are A Changin’

By David

Writing a blog is occasionally all too much. The critics, tiredness and other pressing issues intervene to make the politics of Project Vanguard and Jan Cameron’s failings seem trivial and unimportant. And then events occur that lift the spirit and compel a return to normality.

Today the Auckland and Bay of Plenty Swimming Regions provided two such events. Swimming Auckland adapted their March Auckland Open Championships to allow participation by all swimmers 12 years of age and over. The new programme will be some compensation for swimmers affected by the Division Two National’s postponement, caused by the Christchurch earthquake. But more importantly, as a result of the support of the West Wave Aquatic Centre, Swim T3, Speedo and also CLM/Swim Magic, Auckland will donate 100% of the proceeds from this meet to a charity associated with the earthquake disaster relief.

Swimming Bay of Plenty has agreed to host a new meet at the Rotorua Aquatic Centre on 18th to 20th March. Their meet will offer an opportunity for those who were preparing to swim at the Division Two Nationals, the chance to swim in Rotorua. Swimming Bay of Plenty has drawn on the wide support of their community including the Rotorua Aquatic Centre, Swim T3 and Speedo. The same as Swimming Auckland, 100% of the proceeds from their meet will be donated to an earthquake charity.

This next comment is not playing politics with the pain of Christchurch. It’s not, because it’s important and it’s true. The sort of initiative you see coming from the Auckland and Bay of Plenty Regions will disappear if Project Vanguard is allowed to proceed. Canterbury is in the middle of a period of unimaginable distress. It is appropriate that fellow Regions, fellow swimming folk, people like Jill Vernon was, come to the aid of friends in need of help. That won’t happen in the Project Vanguard world. Cathy Hemsworth has told us that emotion and feeling and care will be replaced with efficiency. Instead of good, gentle swimming people, we will have University trained slickness; corporate speak money men. The reason Project Vanguard should fail is perfectly framed by the two swim meets planned in March; when swimming people will look after swimming people.

It would be improper to criticise any contribution to Canterbury’s need for help. However I have to say that SNZ’s offer of the gross margin on the sale of a few dozen Division Two t-shirt is painfully inadequate. If that’s the way Hemsworth’s “modern management” works I pray I never need their help in the bush on a dark night.

This point was further highlighted at a swim meet I was at in Manurewa this morning. The coach of a small rural club introduced himself and said he enjoyed reading Swimwatch. I was amazed at the depth of feeling contained in his expression of concern about Project Vanguard. If he is representative of swimming’s grass roots, they don’t want a bar of Universities and corporate speak. Shortly after this discussion a long term Club administrator sat beside me and said, “David, can you explain why you are against Project Vanguard?” She said she had been at Hemsworth’s Counties’ presentation. Hemsworth had sold her the Project Vanguard brave new world.

I’ve met the Counties type of long term swimming administrator before. Beth Meade, my old coach from Gisborne, was just like her. These people are the foundation on which the sport in New Zealand was founded. They built the sport that produced Anna Simcic, Toni Jeffs, Phillippa Langrell, Antony Mosse, Paul Kingsman, Paul Kent, Jon Winter, Trent Bray, Anna Wilson and Danyon Loader. Swimmers that won world event medals before Cameron got hold of the sport and taught us all what a decade of losing looked like. They are the salt of this swimming world; they matter enormously.

However, of course the Manurewa lady was impressed with Hemsworth. She has devoted her life to swimming. She has nothing but its best interests at heart. She is fertile ground for anything that sounds like progress. Her good intentions are being exploited. In Biblical terms, Hemsworth is a false prophet in sheep’s clothing. Good people need to hear that there is another point of view.

They need to realize their own importance. Right now this sport is democratic. It is owned and managed by the Regions. The Manurewa lady and Counties’ coach have genuine power. Through the Counties Region the sport is owned by them; not some sporting carpetbagger or part time bank teller. For many years the Regions have done a good job of running swimming. And they still do. Recent events have confirmed that the Regions work well together when one of them has a problem. Byrne, Hemsworth, Coulter and Cameron don’t want this. They want to run things their way – lock, stock and barrel. They want a dictatorship. I have even heard executives on the SNZ and FINA gravy-train argue that because SNZ is the national organ of FINA, it is “essential” that SNZ have sole ownership of their affairs. They cannot be owned by anyone. Well that is just the twisted logic of an autocrat. There is no reason why the FINA representative in New Zealand cannot be democratically controlled. Our Government is; why shouldn’t SNZ?

Isn’t it interesting that the Auckland and Bay of Plenty initiative has not even been mentioned on Swimming New Zealand’s website. How pathetically churlish and small minded is that. Mind you it’s impossible to believe a word their website prints. Weeks after Swimwatch told SNZ that Hayley Palmer and Lauren Boyle were not swimming at the Millennium Institute; they still have both swimmers listed as members. The error is now deliberate which makes it a lie.

So, well done Auckland and Bay of Plenty Swimming and thank you to the Counties’ coach and administrator for an interesting morning. It is my real hope that the New Zealand you represent will prevail and that you will continue to exercise your version of this nation’s sense of fairness over the affairs of swimming in New Zealand.

PS – Further information on the Auckland and Bay of Plenty earthquake initiatives can be found in this PDF file.

  • The SNZ website is refusing to acknowledge the Christchurch fundraising efforts of the Auckland and Bay of Plenty Regions. That is clearly a pretty pathetic shot at the Speedo and Swim T3 support of the twin initiative. The guys that run SNZ are stunningly small minded. Even in the face of death and mass destruction they wander around playing politics; pursuing personal agendas; unable to raise their sights above the rubble of the Christchurch Cathedral.

    And yet while they refuse to mention the Auckland and Bay of Plenty major initiatives, their website is promoting a meet at the St Peters Swimming Academy in Cambridge. Every meet that supports Christchurch is a good one. However the following line on SNZ’s website, promoting the St Peters’ meet, did puzzle me.

    “We are hoping to gain support from as many registered and non- registered swimmers as possible.”

    I thought non-registered swimmers competing in a meet – their blurb calls it a meet – was absolutely, in all circumstances prohibited. Certainly SNZ rules say;

    “A member will be ineligible to compete in any swimming competitions conducted by any club, Regional Association or SNZ if he/she has not paid to his/her club any club and/or Regional Association and/or SNZ membership fees or supplied contact details within 28 days of the dates they fall due.”

    So how are they getting around acting outside the organization’s rules? Oh, I know, this is Cameron and Coulter and Byrne. The Rules don’t apply to them. Someone should initiate a vote of no confidence in this lot and replace them with an interim Board that knows how to run an organization. SNZ is in need of an Egypt style change of government until such time as proper elections can find people fit to govern.