Miskimmin And The Swimming New Zealand Board

By David

At last Swimming New Zealand is beginning to change. In the two years since I arrived back in New Zealand Cameron, Coulter and Byrne have gone. I am not suggesting there is any relationship between my home coming and the demise of those that led swimming into a dark place. This change is an uprising fuelled by years of hurt; a popular reaction to a decade of self interest. Eventually the good people involved in this sport were no longer tolerate the bad behaviour of their leaders. Eventually they would say enough. I’m just glad I was in New Zealand to witness it all first hand.

But before the sport of swimming can replant there are two weeds still to be pulled, two collaborators still to be culled. They are the Swimming New Zealand Board and the CEO of what was SPARC, Peter Miskimmin. In way more serious circumstance but with no less relevance America’s President Roosevelt once warned, “None who participated in these acts should go unpunished. All who share in the guilt shall share in the punishment.”

So why hasn’t the Board of Swimming New Zealand resigned. If the organization’s problems are sufficiently serious for Cameron, Coulter and Butler to fall on their swords why are those who approved everything that was done still there, hanging on to power. The two exceptions are Sutton and Spear whose Board membership is less than twelve months. The others however should be long gone; out the door with their discredited subordinates. Ross Butler, Alison Fitch, Mark Berge, Ron Clarke, Humphrey Pullon and Jane Wrightson are as guilty as sin. They sat and approved Cameron’s Millennium folly, her acquisition of unbridled power and her futile efforts to win an Olympic swimming race. Without question Cameron is a hugely able person. Without proper controls though, the most able are often the most dangerous. Butler, Fitch, Berge, Clarke, Pullon and Wrightson did not do their job. They failed to provide Cameron with the direction, balance and control she desperately needed. Her guilt is their responsibility.

The Board’s involvement in Mike Byrne’s undoing is no less stark. They signed off on the learn to swim expansion that is about to be abandoned. They approved the alteration of AGM minutes. They participated in the decisions that created the environment of fear and mistrust highlighted in the Inneson Report. Whatever happened to the buck stopping at the top? It is way too late for Butler, Fitch, Berge, Clarke, Pullon and Wrightson to act with any dignity. Their departure will be shrouded in shame and guilt. And so it should be. As each day goes by the desperate efforts to hold on to power look increasingly pathetic. All their subordinates, all those whose actions this Board approved, have resigned and gone. It is time the current Board followed that example. It is time this Board voted itself out of existence and handed their responsibilities to those charged with implementing the findings of the Moller Report.

I am particularly sad Alison Fitch has been involved in this mess. She has got herself involved in the best example I’ve seen of everything responsible directors should not do. Her reputation is damaged beyond repair. She was the sort of person the sport of swimming desperately needed. She knew the product, she worked hard and she was intelligent and bright. But she failed herself and she failed swimming. She rejected honesty, openness and truth and chose instead the forces of power. She sided with Butler and Berge when she must have known better. For that she will now rightly have to pay a big price.

And the other party who shares in the guilt and should therefore share in the punishment is Peter Miskimmin. He paid for every decision made by the Swimming New Zealand Board. He financed every action of Cameron and Byrne. His appointed subordinates sat in on every Swimming New Zealand Board meeting. He was the enabler. Without Peter Miskimmin, Cameron could not have created the Millennium white elephant. Without Peter Miskimmin, Byrne could not have expanded into learn to swim. Miskimmin asked for and got annual budgets and detailed plans. He knew about and approved every paper clip and staple Cameron and Byrne ever used. He is the guiltiest. He paid for it all. If things are so bad that Coulter, Cameron, Byrne and the Board need to resign – then Miskimmin has got to accept his guilt and leave as well. If it is good enough for him to bask in the reflected glory of Adams and Willis he must also take the fall when something he has taken hands-on responsibility for turns bad. And Swimming New Zealand under Miskimmin’s watch did turn real bad.

When the current Board and Peter Miskimmin have gone then the way will be clear for the sport of swimming to make a clean start. It is important swimming’s new beginning is not tainted by the presence of Peter Miskimmin and members of the old Board. They would bring with them far too much baggage; far too much hurt. They may be important and powerful people. They are not however as important as the athletes I will meet at 5.30 tomorrow morning. Because Miskimmin and the Board of Swimming New Zealand forgot that truth, they must now pay. There is no room for them in New Zealand sport.