Bigger and Bigger Barns

By David

The title of this story is an abbreviated phrase taken from the Bible; Luke Chapter 15 verses 15-21. The parable is intended as a warning to “watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

The biblical story came to mind when I heard Swimming New Zealand had decided to increase the cost of meet entries. In the twelve months the new regime has been in power this is the second significant price increase. Remember, the first decision they made was to increase the annual registration cost of every club and swimmer in the country. Worse than that Swimming New Zealand decided every volunteer official should begin paying an annual fee for the privilege of working for the organization. In my view, it was disgusting extortion.

And now Swimming New Zealand has decided that the payment to enter any of their meets will be increased. We received a comment about this a couple of days ago. Individual entries will increase from $15 to $17.50. Relay entries will increase from $30 to $35. The rest of the Swimming New Zealand announcement contains all the usual drivel about the “increasing costs” of pool hire and meet management and the cost of the Swimming New Zealand data base development.

It will surprise no one to know that I find the Swimming New Zealand announcement irritating. Actually irritating is way too nice a word; annoying, galling and nauseating are probably more accurate. Why?

Well the process of the announcement and what Swimming New Zealand spends our money on are my principal concerns.

Most of you will remember the good old days when Swimming New Zealand, constitutionally, had to consult and obtain the approval of the membership before imposing a registration price increase. It was a good process. It provided oversight and moderation. In the United States political system it’s called “checks and balances”. A small group of Swimming New Zealand Board members and executives could not charge members of the sport any amount that took their fancy. Chris Moller obviously thought that safeguard was unnecessary. The old constitution’s spending controls were certainly not included in the new Constitution. And now we are all about to pay and pay and pay.

Anyone complaining about the most recent increases needs to be very clear. The members of Swimming New Zealand – that’s you and me – approved the increases and imposed them on ourselves when we provided Layton, Renford, McKee, Power, Hunt, Cotterill and Brown with the powers given to them in the new Constitution; when we replaced a liberal Regional democracy with a centralized autocracy. In the future price increases will continue whenever Swimming New Zealand wish. The only way to prevent them is for the Regions to claim back the powers they so easily gave away. Every member of Swimming New Zealand, right now, is getting a first hand and expensive look at the cost of unrestrained power.

“I told you so” is such a bad mannered phrase. But Swimwatch did warn you that accepting Moller’s constitution would make swimming in New Zealand way, way more expensive. And it is.

The arrogance of power is further demonstrated by the timing of the Swimming New Zealand announcement. Within days of the National Junior Championships and weeks of the Division Two, Open and Age Group Championships Swimming New Zealand announced the price increases. Some of us, West Auckland Aquatics included, had even submitted our entries already believing the old prices applied. I’d be interested to see what the Commerce Act has to say about the legality of applying retrospective price increases. Can you imagine buying a t-shirt at the Warehouse for $10 and the company turning up a week later saying, “Sorry, those shirts are now $12. We need another two bucks.” It appears the morality of that is not a problem at the new Swimming New Zealand.

But the bit that really upsets me the most is what your money and mine will be spent on. Young people throughout the sport are paying for these registration and entry fee increases. How is it being spent?

Well, next time you attend a Swimming New Zealand event pop out the back and check the car park. For there you will find a fleet of new customized Mazda SUVs. Mazda says their cars “Make a fashion statement wherever they go”. At Swimming New Zealand they certainly make a statement about priorities. But the spending does not stop there. Two well-paid coaches looking after a pampered handful of swimmers. More altitude training camps in the Northern Hemisphere than you can wave a stick at. Free pool space; free weights, free medical attention, free massage, flash offices at the Millennium Institute; on and on the spending goes.

And it has to come from somewhere. I wonder where? Well either as a gift from Miskimmin’s tax income or as your registration and entry fees, the money to pay for Swimming New Zealand’s grand lifestyles, comes from you – every last cent. And do you get anything in return? Not really. If you find that hard to believe ask your club secretary, ask the secretary of your Region when they last received a penny of assistance from Swimming New Zealand. I can tell you, never is the answer.

Oh, of course, Swimming New Zealand will tell you all about their new clerical system for tracking swimmers and how your club can’t do without it. But in terms of the day to day reality that faces every club; in terms of providing lane space, of paying coaches, of assisting with travel of supplying kick-boards, fins and hand paddles and of paying the telephone account and the power bill, Swimming New Zealand’s duty of care can best be described as negligent neglect. Even that may be giving it unnecessary praise.

In the new constitution Swimming New Zealand allocated itself the power to impose price increases at will. If that power stinks, and it does, then what they spend the extra money on is putrid. It will only change when the beneficiaries of the extravagance leave our sport alone. There must be someone in Australia, the UK, Canada or Spain who values executives skilled in handling a Mazda SUV.

  • H2tk

    Thank you for picking this up. As I commented before about the Anthony Mosse meet – we have had our entry fees REDUCED for the big Auckland meets to $8.00. So when they have SNZ Opens soon in the SAME pool and they charge more than double the entry fees at $17.50, how do they justify that?

  • David

    H2tk – you have a very good point. Over twice the amount charged by Auckland for a meet entry at the same pool. That really does speak for itself. It really is just terrible. I see SNZ blame cost increases for their usury. This is what they say:
    “Swimming New Zealand are being faced with increasing costs to stage events with many aquatic facilities increasing pool hirage for competitions.”
    Of course they cover themselves with the clever use of the term “many aquatic facilities”. However our club’s home pool is the West Wave pool in Henderson, one of the leading facilities used by SNZ for national events. Auckland’s Mayor may have his political problems just now, but increasing the cost of aquatic recreation is not one of them. SNZ should not use their website to infer it is. I can assure you that in the four years I have been at West Wave there have been no price increases. Is SNZ lying to us.
    It is certainly not enough for them to say “prices have gone up.” We have been lied to so many times we need to see the hire cost numbers. Swimming New Zealand prove it!

  • David

    Is it possible SNZ are seriously lying to us about the increased cost of running the National Championships. I have no idea of their cost of course. But what I do know is that the Championships in 2013 were over 6 days. I imagine the cost of hiring the main pool will be in the order of $35 per lane per hour. Let’s assume the pool is used for 8 hours a day – that’s $2240 a day or $13,440 for the Championship. This year SNZ have reduced the Championships to just 4 days costing SNZ $8,960 to hire the pool. That’s a 33% reduction in cost – on the face of it hardly justification for a 17% price increase.

  • Steve

    Best guess is that the % increase in management level staff in SNZ is probably the same as the percentage decrease in the competitive database over the last ten years. Mismanagement? It is only going to get worse.