Dishonourable Intentions

By David

Swimming New Zealand is in the middle of an in-depth Review of its structure, its management and its sphere of operation. Everything about the organization is open to analysis; is the subject of critical examination. The CEO of SPARC, Peter Miskimmin pushed the Coalition of Regions into accepting the Review because he saw it as the only way left to inflict his socialist management model on yet another New Zealand sport. He’d already imposed centralized management structures on rowing, gymnastics and surf live-saving. All three are currently in various stages of being broke and broken. But Miskimmin does not care. The management of swimming was weak. The sport was completely dependent on Miskimmin for its financial survival. It was an ideal subject for the next SPARC invasion.

Swimwatch warned the Coalition of Regions not to trust SPARC. On a dark, wet night, lost on the top of Mount Whakapunaki, Miskimmin, Collins, Butler, Byrne and McDonald are not the first guys you’d chose as mates. In fact as far as captains of industry go they remind me of Captain Francesco Schettino. He was the Captain of that Italian cruise ship that sank close to the Italian coast a couple of weeks ago. Captain Schettino has been accused of leaving the sinking ship while hundreds of his passengers were fighting for their lives. You’d be excused for thinking that he may have learned that trick from Miskimmin and his friends. My warning to the Coalition of Regions was to never shake hands with those guys without carefully counting your fingers afterwards.

Well, the Coalition of Regions ignored that advice. They were conned by the smooth talking Miskimmin. They trusted SPARC. And now the Coalition of Regions and the sport of swimming will pay for that trust. The Mediation Agreement that set up the Review silenced the opposition. In the hiatus of silence; with their rivals gagged, the Board of Swimming New Zealand and SPARC have run riot.

During a period of management Review, good business practice demands that structural and management changes are put on hold. A time of Review is a time to call a holiday on even normal business initiatives. But that hasn’t happened here; not by a country mile. In a series of schemes, that must have been preplanned, Swimming New Zealand has embarked on a raft of conspiracies. While the rest of us have slept, Swimming New Zealand has been very busy indeed.

They have altered their rules to ban people like me from their National Championships. Because I dare to exercise the right to question the motives of the crooks that run this organization, Swimming New Zealand introduced a measure that denied me the right to coach my swimmers at the New Zealand Olympic Trials. My swimmers are not political pawns in my debate with Swimming New Zealand. It is none of their business. However there is a part of me that wants to see one or two of my swimmers swim really well so that main stream reporters in New Zealand can appreciate the hurt I feel at being denied the right to wish my swimmers well or congratulate them on a job well done. We have worked very hard for that moment and I do take it hard when Miskimmin and Butler and their friends deny me the right to enjoy it.

They have established a High Performance Unit in Wellington. The current Review needs to consider whether Swimming New Zealand has any right to be involved in the preparation of competitive swimmers. Certainly the evidence of sixteen years and sixteen million dollars suggests that they are very poor at the job. Recognizing that the dismal performance of the North Shore High Performance Unit might lead thinking members of the Review to the conclusion that private enterprise can prepare elite athletes better Miskimmin initiated two master strokes of deception. He appointed Gary Hurring to the Review Committee and then paid him to Head the Wellington High Performance Unit. Miskimmin just bought off a New Zealand Sportsman of the Year and his vote. There is no way Gary can vote to end his own source of income. And second, Miskimmin’s Wellington High Performance Unit has created a structure so expensive, so complex that any Review would be excused for reaching the conclusion that it was all too difficult to unravel. Game, set and match to the bad buggers.

And now Swimming New Zealand has circulated a document called, “Proposed changes to the SNZ Regulations and Events Information”. This masterpiece contains the next three moves in Swimming New Zealand’s campaign of dishonesty. The proposed changes are not good. However the method of their introduction during a period of Review positively stinks. The reputation of Miskimmin and Butler is in tatters – or it should be.

The first change proposes that, “After the successful staging of a combined open and age group short course championship in August last year it is proposed to maintain a combined event using a 5 day format going forward.” I believe that’s not a bad idea. However Swimming New Zealand has no right to make the change in the middle of a period of Review.

The second change proposes that, “the format that we currently have for the State 2012 New Zealand Open Championships makes it impossible to select relay team members for the London Olympics, as in a couple of cases the relay event occurs prior to the individual event. This will therefore require a change to the sessions that relays are held in.” Here again, not a bad suggestion but made at a most suspect moment in absolute violation of the agreement made between Swimming New Zealand, the Coalition of Regions and Peter Miskimmin.

The third change proposes that, “It is Swimming New Zealand’s goal to ensure that all events used to achieve qualifying times for New Zealand Championships and for use overseas are of an appropriate standard and swimmers are given the best possible opportunity to achieve their goal times. In an effort to ensure this we are proposing that an event ratification process is established.” The first two innocuous changes are simply to disguise the danger inherent in this classic piece of Swimming New Zealand treachery; to lull the reader into a sense that all this is boring house-keeping before sliding through a measure of seismic magnitude. It is a classic Swimming New Zealand ploy. It’s the way Miskimmin and his friends do just about everything. As we have said before the buggers would not know how to lie straight in bed. This move simply proposes that every swim meet should be subject to a Swimming New Zealand registration process. Recognize the deception? Within a year Comet and Aqua Hawks and West Auckland Aquatics and Wharanui and every other club in the country will be paying Swimming New Zealand a fortune to register meets those clubs have been staging for thirty years for free. This is simply another Miskimmin led, Swimming New Zealand rip off.

  • chhill

    Given the class act and skill level displayed by SNZ technical officials in Greerton as detailed in your previous article “The Rules” i can’t see how they would be able to ratify a single meet in NZ.

  • Tom

    Welcome back David. I think you need to be wary of anyone who writes “going forward” in a communication. It’s probably my (least) favourite example of corporate speak. I can’t wait to hear about SNZ’s next round of “blue sky thinking”.

  • Chris

    David – what is meant by an event ratification process being established? We already have an “event ratification process”. This is already done at the regional level and has been for as long as I can remember.

    All regions already have a process of ratifying events in their region which is normally done through their Technical Committees. Their job is to oversee the ratification process to ensure that any events on the calendar in their region meet with the technical requirements i.e. required number of Referees, officials etc. before it is approved, and before results can be submitted to Take Your Marks. There is a Technical Certificate that a Meet Referee must sign off after every session, which is then approved and ratified by a region’s board. And if a Technical Certificate with all the necessary paperwork is not produced, the meet will not be ratified. Simple.

    So for example, if my local club decides to run a club meet and doesn’t have the required number of qualified officials, or qualified Referees, or doesn’t comply with the rules in any way, it can’t have its results ratified by the region. Fair enough.

    What I think this is David, is EITHER:

    1. We (SNZ) don’t believe anything that doesn’t come out of Wellington is of an appropriate standard, because of course everything that we (SNZ) do is of such a superior standard and quality, we wish to ensure quality control is vested in Pelorus House, where of course we believe regions have no function and are a waste of space and we’ve been wanting to get rid of them anyway. And by the way, if we don’t like you, we won’t ratify your meet!


    2. We (SNZ) think that this is a great way of moving even more control to our 32 staff because they need to justify their jobs, and besides, this can be a tidy little money-spinner, because, think about it, if we take control of all swim meets throughout the entire country we can then charge a “ratification fee” for our new service (which up until now has been free, but that’s just a red herring).


    (BTW glad to see you back on the airwaves David).

  • Chris

    My apologies. 33 staff.

  • David

    Tom – without doubt going forward is awful. It was one of Jan’s favourites. At the Commonwealth Games her news reports were full of the New Zealand team going forward.

  • Chris

    Yes. And that horrible phrase “grow the business”.

  • James T

    Sorry, but on what basis can SNZ justify a new HP Centre in Wellington? In the middle of a major review, no less? Slipped through post Rugby WC fever, holidays, and unfortunately, while your site was down David.

    Is that not completely inappropriate to be making major financial commitments, no doubt having entered into long term contracts, when the very question of SNZ’s structure including high performance is likely to be part of the review? Were there no boundaries placed on Butler, Byrne and this Board? Is this not a case bordering on malfeasance? Is this not another case of shocking governance?

    And where the hell is this Coalition calling them to account?

    And I guess I should also ask the other obvious questions. Given that there is only one elite high performance swimmer that I can think of in Wellington who I would say justifies SPARC support, has Capital SC had a sudden influx of swimmers ranked in the World Top 50, or even Top 100, or even 150, or lets be generous, Top 200? These of course were the figures that would be bandied about to justify the supposed select few in Auckland.

    So SNZ has just handed Capital SC an annual cheque, for what I would estimate, at least $150,000 per annum, probably more, as their coaches salary, expenses, and their pool hire is now being paid for by us.

    I reckon that since they are feeling so generous with money that doesn’t belong to them, and since SPARC are as compliant in this sham as anyone, every coach with swimmers ranked higher than the swimmers in the Wellington HP Centre (excluding Gareth Kean of course) should put their bill in for their salary and pool hire to be paid for by SNZ.

    I think that’s fair, don’t you David?

  • Sensible Swimming

    @James T – Thanks for raising the matter of Wellington HP. I have been fuming about this for weeks. David we need your insight on this subject to please.

    I want to add to @Tom (“looking forward”) and @Chris (“grow the business”) my sheer and visceral distaste for the use of the term ‘High Performance” to justify spending money in support of ahtletes whose claim to achievement ranks no better than moderate to mediocre and by world standards probably poor.

    I will not become personal in naming individual athletes (because it is not their fault that SNZ administrators are completely inept when it comes to protecting the public purse) but I fail to see how any athlete who is ranking lower than 50 in the world can be defined as being High Performance and is worthy of tax payer support. By that definition there is only one athlete in Wellington who currently deserves recognition (and support) under a High Performance moniker. There are also considerable numbers in Auckland who receive tax-payer support who should not and then there are a handful of others around the country and overseas who receive nothing in support who should.

    I am over these people – I do not begrudge my tax dollars being spent on athletes who have genuinely achieved something (Olympic or World Championship qualification maybe a good level to start) but I am absolutely opposed to tax payer dollars being spent on athletes below that level, no matter how promising someone may think they are.

  • James T

    Sensible Swimming, totally agree.

    The reason I mentioned Top 50, 100, was that during the Cameron era these benchmarks, in addition to FINA points, were often used to determine things like carding, Prime Minister’s Scholarships etc for our swimmers. Probably still is, but there was always scant information available and the policies were never applied consistently or equitably. Even if our swimmers were nowhere near the standard required, just trying to understand the “pathways” as Cameron used to refer to, was a complete mystery. You know, the old adage, “knowledge is power”.

    But the thing that just sticks in the throat is that the clubs were constantly told that the SPARC funding for High Performance sport was ONLY to be used for the handful of elite swimmers and was NOT for emerging talent or promising young swimmers, or any other SNZ purpose. This apparently was the SPARC criteria for narrowly targeted funding for medal prospects at the Olympics. I even recall a radio interview with Cameron on the Deaker show when asked about the SPARC funding and how much would be used on promising new talent, and the answer was NONE, that it was only for the handful of top swimmers, and that this was a specific SPARC condition of HP funding.

    What we have instead is a clear case of money being siphoned away into the SNZ big black hole of its overheads, a doubling of the numbers in the HP with most swimmers who frankly should not even be there, and promises about how they are going to light the world on fire in 2016.

    And then swimmers like Natalie Wiegersma who STILL gets bugger all funding. Or Cara Baker, does she get funding? Hell no. Or any ranked swimmer that has left the HP Centre, do they get funding? Don’t be stupid. Oh, but hordes of promising Wellington swimmers who frankly don’t have a hope in hell of making an Aquablack team any time soon are getting funded.

    In a nutshell, why is there a new HP Centre in Wellington?

    The answer is Mark Berge who was the Chairman of Capital SC … plus … the Chairman of Swimming Wellington .. plus … a Board Member of SNZ … plus … now the Chair of the High Performance Review Committee. Add to that shocking collection of conflicts of interests the usual stooges Byrne, Butler, Cull and McDonald, and the result is:

    Two fingers to the review!!

  • Chris

    Yes, cronyism at its very worst!

    They had Butler as the Chair of the HP Review Group, or whatever they call it now, who knows nothing about swimming let alone high performance sport. And he apparently slipped out on the quiet just when Helen Norfolk, who was on the committee, went public about her resignation, remember this
    back in October. What I read between the lines from a very dignified Helen Norfolk is a massive slap to Butler’s chairmanship and governance on that committee. I reckon he retired from that committee when he knew Helen was going public. Oh yes, this is all about Butler’s reputation.

    So they apparently replaced him with Mark Berge. I didn’t know that. And what does Mark Berge know about high performance swimming? Nada.

  • Wellington Outsider

    Mark Burge is a very malevolent influence in all of this. He has an ego as big as a house (you must have heard about the $700 jeans he wears and tells everybody he meets about how much they cost) and along with Butler is a real control freak (including demanding that our Wellington members are not allowed to talk with anybody elsewhere in the country – who does he think he is? Colonel Gadaffi, or somebody? Ooops, don’t forget he is South African so he probably gets that play straight out of the Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd playbook on effective governance!) He is the architect of all that is bad about Project Vanguard (which he still believes is alive and well and will eventually be the SNZ solution) and when his Bureau of State Security measures don’t work he tries, like the big girl’s blouse that he is, to use emotional blackmail to coerce people along the path of his dodgy scheme. In answer to your question, “what does he know about HP swimming?”, you are right, Nada. Absolutely nothing, but that never deters the architects of grandiose schemes of state control. He fancies himself as being an expert management consultant and yet Project Vanguard which was an example of total ineptness and extremely bad process from the beginning to its undignified and inglorious end was all his baby from the start. Despite this he still has delusions that PV will rise again and shifts all the blame to Hemsworth, salesperson in chief for Vanguard, by saying the message was all good, they just had the wrong messenger. Total coward. Only in the moral vacuum of SNZ would you get a situation where one person who spends two days of every week in the SNZ office and has a personal interest at four levels in the establishment of a new HP Centre (as James T above says, Capital SC Committee member, Wellington Chairman, SNZ Board and deputy chair in addition to Chair of the HPGC) and for it to be considered OK for him to be making the decision to establish a new HP Centre at Capital SC. And somehow nobody in the establishment sees anything wrong with that. This is Governance at its most dreadful. Where do we dredge these people up from? Please don’t judge everybody in Wellington by this guy.

  • James T

    What the ???? He is the Deputy Chair of SNZ as well? When did that happen?

  • James T

    Wait, so Capital SC has a new HP Centre status, which means that their Head Coach’s salary is now paid for by SNZ, their pool time is paid for by SNZ, their HP swimmers presumably don’t pay training fees any more, they will have access to sports science support from Academy of Sport free of charge, general expenses etc etc ….

    And the guy at the centre of all this is Mark Berge:
    Former Chairman of Capital SC
    Director of Capital SC
    Chairman of Swimming Wellington
    Swimming NZ Board member
    Swimming NZ Deputy Chairman
    Chairman SNZ High Performance Review Committee

    Bloody hell!!