To Join Swimming New Zealand

By David

I see that Swimming New Zealand has ratified the new regulation that all coaches on the pool deck at one of their events must be members of their organization. I have no serious objection to that rule. For the past eight years I have happily been a member of either the US Virgin Island’s Federation or USA Swimming. The United States has a similar rule to this New Zealand rule. A coach needs to be a member of USA Swimming to participate in their competitions. So it is not membership of a national federation that is my problem with the New Zealand rule.
Here is what the rule says:

In order to be granted accreditation for access to New Zealand Competitions, Team Managers and Coaches must be members of either Swimming New Zealand or the New Zealand Swim Coaches and Teachers Association.

My problem is the Code of Conduct members of Swimming New Zealand are expected to observe. Anyone joining Swimming New Zealand is required to comply with the Swimming New Zealand Code of Conduct. One of those rules says, “To not speak to any media in a negative way regarding Swimming NZ Inc.” That rule is so disgusting, so devoid of common decency, so anti democratic that I am revolted by the very thought of being a member of any organization that has it as part of their Code of Conduct. Certainly, the new rule combined with the Code of Conduct has been introduced in an effort to silence Swimwatch.

It is the sort of personality politics that is a trade mark of the Cameron, Byrne and Coulter regime. Play the person not the ball is their specialty. Every day they are as guilty as sin of breaking the very next Code of Conduct rule that says they will, “Never act in any way that may bring disrepute or disgrace to SNZ members.” Are Cameron, Coulter and Byrne guilty of breeching that rule? The answer is not even close. Swimwatch has listed a litany of acts and illegalities that have brought disrepute and disgrace to the organization. And the Coulter gang know it. That’s why they are working to silence the rest of us. Just about every swimmer interviewed by Ineson listed, as one of their concerns, the danger of being punished for talking about Cameron’s failings. Ineson called it a “climate of fear”.

Of course their “bully boy” rules never worked in the case of Swimwatch. I was not a member of Swimming New Zealand. I could say what I liked; what I thought was important. So now they have tried to close the loop hole. To be with my swimmers on the pool deck at Swimming New Zealand events, I have to join their organization. If I join their organization I can no longer write for Swimwatch. The vehicle that has highlighted some of their worst atrocities would be silenced. But would we be the only ones?
In the last Swimwatch post I highlighted a report circulated to all the Regions by Bronwen Radford. In it she uses expressions such as:
The situation that our sport has been placed in by our SNZ leadership now concerns me enormously.

The remits were, once again, met with a resounding and collective wall of silence from SNZ which signalled a clear intention on SNZ’s part to both ignore what had been presented but also to not work with some of these remits in the event that they were passed.
Rather than work with what the AGM had lawfully determined, SNZ immediately responded by commissioning a legal opinion in support of their lack of desire to follow the wishes of the AGM.

Certainly no one reading her report could be left in any doubt that Bronwen is speaking “in a negative way regarding Swimming NZ Inc.” Just like Swimwatch her report is a clear breech of the Cameron, Coulter and Byrne imposed Code of Conduct rule. So what are they going to do? Have a hearing and ban Bronwen Radford from the sport? I’d love to see them try. But that is what their rule is there to do. It is there to silence dissent. It is there to compel silence – and do you know what – for eight long years it worked. No one dared cross the Coulter gang. That is until Browen Radford came along. And that’s why she deserves our respect.

Without the freedom to dissent there is no democracy. Coulter can bang on as long as he likes about elections and Annual Meetings but while he denies Swimming New Zealand members the right to express an honestly held opinion to anyone they like he is no better than any other tin-pot dictator; an autocrat without honor.  

So now the Coulter gang has Swimwatch in a corner. If I want to be on the pool deck with the swimmers I help, what am I going to do? Join the organization and write platitudes about how wonderful Jan is and how highly Lydiard spoke of the fleeting moments of time they spent together. Join the organization and continue to write about Swimming New Zealand honestly and risk expulsion. Refuse to join the organization and sit in the bleachers, communicating with the West Auckland Aquatics team by two way radio.

I must tell you I really hate the idea of joining the organization. That rule of silence goes right to the heart of everything I despise. I do take seriously the fact that my father lost his arm and eye in Italy fighting for a cause that, in part, included the right to speak about the failings of those in power. A friend of mine has a father who spent four years in a POW camp for exactly the same reasons. It is not taking the argument too far to say that 11,900 New Zealanders died so that we could preserve the freedom of speech that Swimming New Zealand are now trying to limit. I hate the idea of walking away from their sacrifice because three gutless pricks in Wellington don’t like the truth. No one is above the right to be criticized.

So I have no idea what to do. Right now I think I might take the bleachers and two way radio option. However if anyone reading Swimwatch has any better idea of how best to handle the problem, I’d love to hear from you. I’m just hoping Bronwen Radford gets rid of the three tyrants and democracy replaces them with directors who have more respect for our personal freedoms. Then I’d join Swimming New Zealand in a heartbeat.            

  • Andrew

    Hi David,
    Unless you dictate (in the secretarial sense) swimwatch then you will not have “spoken” to any media. This rule seems quite specifically aimed at an interview situation. It does not mention publishing your thoughts or your ability to speak freely to anyone EXCEPT media. So speak out in your own words directlywhat you’ve been doing.

  • David

    Andrew – Yes, I do take your point and it may work. My concern was that they would ignore that distinction and have a show trial anyway. It might be worth a go though. Thank you.

  • Rhi Jeffrey

    David, what do you mean by “fleeting moments of time” that Jan and Lydiard spent together? Does it mean what I think it means? :)

  • James T

    David – this all stinks and this crowd are rotten to the core. They are worse than maggots on a festering dung heap!

    Who the hell do they think they are? Their behaviour and attitude is like the KGB or the South African police during the bad years of apartheid. This is a sport we are participating in not some big political movement. They need to get over themselves. Criticism of them (from Swimwatch and others) is good because it attempts to keep them honest (without obvious success I might add). If they stopped behaving badly and stopped telling lies then people would not need to be critical. Start doing a good job and then they can just laugh the criticism off.

    How dare they try and impose this type of thought control. It is exactly what they have been trying to do to the swimmers for years. The swimmers have operated from a climate of fear and are expected to sign contracts requiring them to tell lies (that SNZ is their principle sponsor and supporter when all the money for the athletes support comes from SPARC, etc) and to not speak negatively or critically about SNZ – thats why we did not see or hear any of them breaking rank until Moss B. retired and did not have anything left to lose.

    I think it is amazing that any of the swimmers were prepared to speak with Ineson at all – I bet that will not happen again given that SNZ has still not done anything about fixing the problems which Ineson identified. The athletes trusted SPARC to help fix this and now they have been let down because SPARC gave the job of fixing the corruption to the corrupt b******s themselves. What has happened since Ineson? Sweet b****r all! Cameron is still there. Byrne is still there. Coulter is still there. What does that say to the athletes who trusted the system?

    David, you cannot give up this fight. The thought of seeing you on the bleachers with a two way radio in the knowledge that Swimwatch continues to publish and keeping these charlatans exposed will give us all hope that one day soon we will see the end of Cameron, Byrne and Coulter. That day cannot come soon enough.

    Just let them try and expel Bronwen Radford from SNZ – she has given more to this sport than any of them. All hell will break loose if they do that. She is a brave lady who deserves our support and thanks. Let me just think for a moment…Bronwen Radford or Mike Byrne? Now that is a tough one!

  • Northern Swimmer

    Dear David,

    Call your good friend Maria Clarke. Let her deal with this.

    As you have pointed out such rules are un-democratic. While it is not as much as a founding document as the American Bill of Rights, New Zealand has its own Bill of Rights Act. This is our legislation which ratifies the United Nation’s International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (one of the foundation documents of the UN). Two sections of note in the Bill of Rights Act are Section 14 and Section 17.

    14. Freedom of expression
    Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

    17.Freedom of association
    Everyone has the right to freedom of association.

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1990/0109/latest/DLM224792.html?search=ts_act_bill+of+rights_resel&p=1

    (Sadly there is no equivalent of Article 2 in the American version – the right to keep and bear arms)

    The Courts regard the Bill of Rights as a constitutional document and are extremely reluctant to over-rule the rights contained therein. Indeed, section 6 states:
    “Interpretation consistent with Bill of Rights to be preferred
    Wherever an enactment can be given a meaning that is consistent with the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights, that meaning shall be preferred to any other meaning”

    Swimming New Zealand would argue that there is nothing forcing you to join SNZ or SCAT. However the argument could easily be made that without such membership coaches and swimmers are unable to be a part of National teams, or attend FINA sanctioned international events – which include the World Championships and Olympics.

    As for the rule that members are “To not speak to any media in a negative way regarding Swimming NZ Inc.” SNZ would likely point to the repetition of Swimwatch’s views in the mainstream media. It would however rest with them to show, on the balance of probabilities, that you have directly communicated these opinions to Andrew Alderson, and not that he has read them on Swimwatch, or heard them through a third party. I imagine this would be hard to do. As far as I know SNZ is not involved in phone hacking… Yet.

  • Chris

    David, you ARE media.

    According to its definition, media is a means of mass communication. Therefore, I would say that 1,000 hits a day would qualify Swimwatch as MEDIA for this very targeted audience – being the swimming community (and not just in NZ). There is no doubt that online forums and social media are now viewed as “media”, and so David, you most certainly could not be accused of talking negatively to “yourself”.

    Which brings up the next logical extension. Would Swimwatch reader’s negative comments about SNZ on this site be viewed as in breach of their Code of Conduct, since we could quite rightly be seen to be “talking” negatively to the media?

  • Stevie

    Godzone has The New Zrealand Bill of Rights. It says everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind. This applies to SPARC. It doesn’t apply to SNZ as such.
    Suggest you use the two-way radio option, while you complain to the Justice Department about SPARC – about SPARC being complicit in a serious breach of the civil rights of those who are members of SNZ. Basically the government funder can’t provide public monies to a body that denies freedom of expression – a fundamental civil right. In other words SPARC can’t lawfully support an organisation unless that organisation promotes human rights and fundamental freedoms in New Zealand. SNZ would have to change its rule or SPARC would have to stop the funding it provides.

  • Tom

    David, I think if Swimming New Zealand went ahead and tried to force you to shut down, it would be a lose-lose situation for them. There would be news headlines ‘SNZ tries to silence outspoken critic’ that would inevitably drive more people to your blog, who would read your posts on the debacle that is SNZ.

    Of course, SNZ have demonstrated that public (let alone their own stakeholders) opinion isn’t of great concern to them.

  • Sensible Swimming

    Interesting comments all – is there a lawyer amongst us because there is another aspect of this which really bugs me.

    But first let me go off on another tangent. SNZ says this provision has been introduced to allow SNZ to ‘protect’ people/members from nefarious reprobates who may not be members of SNZ. I would like to know exactly how many times in the past 10 years (or 100 maybe) SNZ has been unable to protect its members because this provision has not existed?

    We all know that Mike Byre reads Swimwatch every morning because his staff tell us that he does and also because Jane can see his computer logging on every morning. So here is the challenge to Mike Byrne. Tell us how many times have you not been able to take care of protecting members because a coach or manager was not a member of SNZ? Come on Mr Byrne, stop being gutless, put your name to it and give us the answer. I’ll also bet the answer is zero because this regulation change has never been about protection, it is about ensuring that David Wright is excluded.

    David, as Byrne will not answer that question to Swimwatch because he will try and deny that he reads what you write, would you please ask your West Auckland and/or Auckland representatives to write a formal letter to SNZ asking them this question? Perhaps some readers from other regions can ask their regional representatives to write and ask the SNZ leadership the same question.

    Now I come back to the earlier point – this rule only applies to coaches and managers of New Zealand club teams. Stevie, you raise the issue of SPARC being required to support the NZ Bill of Rights. Surely we run into similar issues for SPARC because is this rule not now creating a direct position of discrimination based on race/nationality? Non-NZ coaches and managers who are not known to us can come and gain accreditation and are deemed ‘non-threatening’ and yet our own citizens are discriminated against. I would like to hear from the lawyers amongst us on the angle of race discrimination as this just sounds very crooked.

  • Chris

    I would also suggest David that SNZ trying to invoke the “talk negatively” clause would be a bit of an own goal at the moment (or in fact, at any time).

    I like the above comments re. Bill of Rights, but also the government funded agency’s responsibilities as it relates to this Bill. So in this context, the clause is unlawful, unenforceable, unworkable, and therefore will become irrelevant and should be repealed.

    it is a shame that the deadline for remits for the AGM has closed (BTW,do we know what has been put forward yet) because a remit to delete the clause from the Code of Conduct would be quite appropriate.

    In fact, by the sound of things from Mrs Radford’s letter, they will be calling a SGM after the AGM anyway to tidy up what can’t be done at the AGM. So I think that some of the coalition regions should be thinking about repealing that clause as part of SGM business.

    There you go David – we are all looking out for you.

  • Sharon

    Hi all.

    So, the weirdest thing happened down in Hamilton at the secondary schools meet. Anyway, Koru was there, and of course, he had no idea who I was, and in fact, most of the people I was with had no idea who he was. But anyway, he spent the entire time talking to anyone that would listen about how awful the regions were and that they are going to ruin the sport, and they’ve been lying and devious, and they don’t like Vanguard because they will lose their jobs.

    Hahahaha. What an idiot. The only job he should be worried about losing is his own.

  • lee

    My comments;
    Why don’t the regions give thoughts to breaking away from SNZ and get separate funding from SPARC? Ben Fouhy did it with Kayak NZ so a precedent has been set?
    There is a saying that you are promoted to “a level of incompetance” it seems that Koru may be there.
    Ask the board what performance plan / measures have been put in place to ensure that while Koru remains there steps are in place to find some improvement (more than just a 7 hour chat) and if there is no improvement then performance manage him out.
    A number of the items that have been highlighted on this site are operational matters that Koru must take reponsibility for, yet, you have shown that some, such as the website inaccuracies, are continuing. What steps are being taken within SNZ to get this fixed?