Where No Man Has Gone Before

By David

The much used and abused internet reference facility known as Wikipedia tells me:

“Where no man has gone before” is a phrase originally made popular through its use in the title sequence of the Star Trek science fiction television series. It refers to the mission of the starship Enterprise. The introductory sequence, narrated by William Shatner is:

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

The report on Swimming New Zealand known as the Moller Report could well be introduced by the same text. Moller is the culmination of a five year mission. His report does boldly go where no man has gone before. But will it work? Right now it is all words – “full of sound and fury” certainly, but without action, “signifying nothing”. The real test of Moller is still ahead. His report has been written and presented and it is good. Surprisingly and bravely Moller has reached good conclusions. He wants the federal system of regional power retained. He wants the current Board and Mike Byrne gone. Of course, I am delighted. Moller has accepted many – perhaps even most – of the recommendations called for on Swimwatch. It feels like the last five years work, writing, writing and writing endlessly about the shambles created by Byrne, Cameron, Coulter and the others has been vindicated. Perhaps now some of the many critics of Swimwatch will see that I was not an out of control trouble maker after all. There is however no joy, no elation, just relief. Perhaps, after the false start of Inneson, we will see a better sport, a fairer sport.

You will notice that all this is prefaced with the ominous qualification, “perhaps”. Why perhaps? Well, if nothing happens, if no action follows, Moller is just a hugely expensive fairy tale. Right now Mike Byrne is still employed; the Board is still in place. Moller is just words. When I hear that Byrne has left the building, that Fitch and Butler, Pullon and Wrightson are no more: when I see a good Board of six put in their place – make sure Suzanne Spear is one of them – and a competent CEO replaces Byrne – Palmer with the Head Office in Auckland gets my vote – then Moller will have earned our praise, admiration and respect. Then Moller will have made a difference. The Moller Report must be actioned. It must be actioned quickly.

But beware; there are forces out there that will do all in their power to derail the Moller reforms. Do not underestimate their guile. Look at how they upset the findings of the Inneson Report. Members of the Swimming New Zealand Board are experts at holding on to power. They have made an art form out of dodging reports critical of their behaviour. Already they are following a well prepared and often used script. First, they accept without qualification everything Moller says; and thank him so very, very much for the effort and time he has put into his findings. Then they ask for just a few days to fully understand all that is in the report and to discuss its conclusions with a group they call the sport’s stakeholders. And then they wait as long as possible, certainly long enough for the press to lose interest before leaking rumours that Moller might have made mistakes, that he did not have an in depth understanding of the unique problems associated with swimming. After all, his real experience was in the team games of rugby and cricket. Miskimmin will offer his support to the current Board, just as he did after Inneson and Moller will be quietly shelved; another report gathering dust in the well stocked library of reports in Pelorus House.

All that is not the product of an overactive imagination. It has happened before. I’d be prepared to bet that it is a plan Butler and Byrne are considering. To be effective the Moller Report needs to be actioned quickly and decisively. For the love of God, this time, do something and do it quickly. Pay Byrne whatever it takes. Demand that the Board holds an early Special General Meeting. Arrange for the next generation of Directors to be on hand to take over the management of the organization. And importantly stop current discredited Board members taking actions that commit the organization for years ahead. I heard today they may be looking to recruit and employ a High Performance Director. This person will need to work closely with the new Swimming New Zealand CEO. In the current circumstances it is impossible to believe the current administration would be preparing to recruit a person to fill this vacancy. Mind you, just about everything they have ever done has been impossible to believe.

Implementing the Moller recommendations will only be the beginning. Moller wants to see the organization well managed. People doing my job want to see Moller’s governance changes bring about changes to this sport. We have to see our swimmers share in the privileged life style currently only available to swimmers at the Millennium Institute. The organization responsible for swimming throughout New Zealand has to ensure that a Danyon Loader born in Greymouth has just as much access to funding and advantage as Snyders and his mates on the North Shore of Auckland. Those that take over as a result of the Moller Report have a duty to the swimmers that the Byrne and Cameron regime marginalized. Gray put it like this

Full many a gem of purest ray serene

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

But the person who is really responsible for seeing that the Moller Report is actioned with integrity is Peter Miskimmin. He funded, supported and protected the discredited regime that has run swimming in New Zealand for far too long. He must now correct the error of his ways. That will in no way excuse the mistakes he made in the past. They have caused incalculable pain. With his atrocious record the least we can expect from Miskimmin is that he actively sees that the Moller recommendations are put into effect quickly and in full. Miskimmin has not behaved well in the past. Perhaps this time will be different. We will see.