In The Interests Of Transparency

By David

There are events that are so devoid of civility that they render decent people speechless. Swimming New Zealand has just engineered one such event. So what happened on this occasion?

Well, they had an election. Except it wasn’t really an election. You see, the Board had two vacancies and Swimming New Zealand offered just two candidates. Two vacancies, two candidates – that’s an election every tin-pot dictator in world history would recognize. Robert Mugabe, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi, Brent Layton and Christian Renford clearly have or had no problem with unopposed “democracy”. One handpicked, state sponsored candidate for each vacancy is the form of democracy offered by Swimming New Zealand; promoted and supported by Christian Renford and his boss Brent Layton.
The two candidates were nominated by a selection politbureau, unbelievably comprised of Comrade Chis Moller, fresh from a sterling period of successful management at Cricket New Zealand, Comrade Brent Layton, the Swimming New Zealand Chairman, some Comrade from Sport New Zealand with the slightly pornographic title of Relationships Manager and a token junior comrade from Wellington. Their nominations, unsurprisingly supported by Swimming New Zealand, were Ian Hunt from Christchurch and Margaret McKee from Wellington. When these two realized they were the only candidates; that there was no contested election; no democracy, they should have withdrawn from the process. Perhaps their participation in this electoral sham raises serious questions about their values. Are there any other democratic principles Hunt and McKee are prepared to see compromised in the pursuit of power? I don’t know, but I’d love to hear them justify uncontested elections; elections in which they are the only candidates, elections where a soviet style politbureau replaces the will of the membership, as being in any way democratic or ethical.
Would Hunt and McKee find it at all strange if Len Brown was to have council officers declare him the only candidate in the – soon to be held – Auckland mayoral elections? How are Hunt and McKee any different? How is Swimming New Zealand any different?
But the questions do not stop there. The voting sham of the Board election took place a couple of weeks ago. Swimming New Zealand’s thirteen regions voted. Each region’s votes were sent to Pelorus House by email. Someone in Swimming New Zealand had the task of collating thirteen electoral returns, for or against two unopposed candidates. On a bad day that’s about an hour’s work.
In the New Zealand General Election the earliest results are declared an hour after the polls close; with most votes being counted by midnight and all 2,278,989 votes being accounted for the following day. But, at the new Layton, Renford Swimming New Zealand counting thirteen regional returns took them a week; that’s about twelve hours for each return; three and a half days for each vacancy; three and a half days for each candidate, seven days to count twenty-six possible yes or no votes.
And, after all that, they got it wrong.
Swimming New Zealand declared a result that was electoral rubbish. I have no idea what they did. I suspect they allocated some of Hunt’s results to McKee and could have even counted some negative results as yes votes for the candidates. Whatever, their incompetence resulted in Swimming New Zealand declaring a Board election result that was as much a work of fiction as Lord of the Rings. The Carter Centre for election monitoring could well be of use to this lot when it comes to deciding on what’s “free and fair”.
When Swimming New Zealand was questioned by regions unable to reconcile the votes they had caste with Swimming New Zealand’s first declaration of the official result, Swimming New Zealand replied with the email shown below. Like a school boy caught shoplifting candy from the corner store, Swimming New Zealand say, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I just made a mistake.”
Subject: Amended result of Swimming New Zealand Board Elections / Appointments
Swimming New Zealand Board Elections / Appointments
To Chairs of Regions, Regional Associations, Life Members and Swimming NZ Board and Staff
For your information and in the interests of transparency, due to an error in calculating the votes received by each candidate, we have had to review and recount the voting for the Swimming New Zealand Board Elections.
 As a result of that, I can confirm the following revised percentages received by each candidate:
 Votes Cast:                    7786
 Ian Giles Hunt                6935                    89.07%
Elsie Margaret McKee    5464 votes          70.18%
Under the SNZ Constitution, candidates needed to exceed 50.00% of the vote to be elected. Both Ian Hunt and Margaret McKee have achieved this and are therefore elected.
I apologies for the inconvenience caused.
Thanks / regards
What a joke. For a week they counted thirteen returns and got it wrong. So much for the Layton, Renford motto of “Excellence, Integrity, Accountability”. Is excellence taking a week to count to thirteen? Is integrity misallocating votes and waiting for a complaint before correcting the error? Is accountability promoting single candidate elections? I think not.
And then they had to “review and recount the voting”. And this is the organization that says it is the one that will lead us to world swimming excellence. Think about it. It takes them a week to count to thirteen and they want us to put New Zealand’s young swimmers in their care. Hell no. Anyone responsible for this electoral shambles is not going to get any swimmer of mine. In fact the suspicion of electoral misbehavior is sufficiently high I think it is essential that Swimming New Zealand be asked to publish the raw electoral returns from the Regions. I want to check the validity of what I’m being told. And if that leaves the impression I don’t trust the stuff that comes out of Pelorus House, with this as my experience, do you blame me? However better than all that if we can get Swimming New Zealand to publish the actual votes I promise that all by myself, with only a $5 calculator as help, I will have an accurate count in less than one hour – excellence, integrity and accountability.
Off the subject perhaps, but one final point, am I alone in finding the result of this election surprising? Here we have two handpicked candidates standing for two uncontested vacancies and 10.93% of the membership felt sufficiently negative towards Hunt that they actually voted against him. McKee had 29.82% of the membership vote against her bid for swimming power. Uncontested elections are normally won by 99% margins. Robert Mugabe would look on the performance of Hunt and McKee as a huge defeat – and so it is. In an uncontested election this result is about as bad as it gets. When there is no choice but a huge minority of the members still feel sufficiently motivated to vote against the candidate, then there is a problem. Layton and Renford would do well to take note. The message from this result is that the membership of Swimming New Zealand is not happy and is beginning to let it be known.