Archive for March, 2014

Sam Rossiter Stead

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

By David

Last week Swimwatch listed five events associated with the campaign to eliminate the Wairarapa Region and have the area’s affairs run from Wellington. It appears that one of the leading advocates of change was a public relations spin pundit called Sam Rossiter-Stead. You may recall that he is the individual who distributed an email to the Wairarapa swimming community claiming that he was the recipient of “crank phone calls”. He also told anyone who would listen that he was “working with Vodafone and the police to identify the culprit”. He said he had given “them a list of numbers to check out”.

Demonstrating creditable initiative some members of the Wairarapa swimming community decided to check out the email and its story of telephone abuse. Amazingly they were told that the Masterton police had never heard of Sam Rossiter Stead’s crank calls. The police had not approved his email and were not checking out a list of Sam Rossiter Stead supplied numbers.

I have a real problem with this email. I also have a problem with the agency, Swimming New Zealand, that sanctioned its distribution. Here is the Sam Rossiter-Stead email in its entirety. It seems to be a pretty malicious work of fiction.

So what is it about Mr Sam Rossiter-Stead’s email that I find so disturbing? The apparent contradiction between this email and the information obtained from the Masterton police is difficult to reconcile. Either the police have lost or are unaware of a complaint they received or Sam Rossiter-Stead never laid a complaint – no matter what his email says. I wonder which one it can be. I do hope lies were not used to gain a political advantage in SNZ’s pursuit of power. Certainly, if Rossiter-Stead is to continue representing the Wairarapa on the Board of the Wellington Region, the apparent contradictions of fact in the document he authored need to be properly investigated and resolved.

I may have missed something but I can’t find any record of Rossiter-Stead being appointed to the Board of the Wellington Region. It seems he just appears as the Wairarapa’s representative, happily seconding motions and voting his little heart out. Is this another example of SNZ democracy at work? Remember how they elect national Board members these days, North Korea style – the same number of candidates as vacancies. Wellington has obviously learned at the feet of its master.

I find the email’s reference to a list of telephone numbers puzzling. Vodafone and the police were given a few numbers to investigate eleven months ago. Has there been a result? Has Vodafone reprimanded any user for misuse of a telephone? Have the police prosecuted anyone for making abusive calls? Rossiter-Stead very quickly and publically pointed the finger at members of the Wairarapa swimming community. He could at least clear up the result of his complaint. I happen to know many of those who opposed Rossiter-Stead’s involvement in this process. None have been approached by the police or Vodafone. It is not right that they continue to live in the shadow of a Rossiter-Stead blanket accusation. Or – perhaps there never were any numbers.

Rossiter-Stead devotes a whole paragraph to the plight of Wairarapa youngster Grace Yeates and compares her distress to the behaviour of some in the Wairarapa swimming community. I find this whole comparison in the worst possible taste. How dare anyone use the condition of Grace Yeates to make a political point. I can think of no circumstance that justifies using her name and medical suffering in this way. It is really bad. Is any abuse justified in the pursuit of power? Should someone, prepared to make a comparison in this way, be asked to leave the sport?

This is an absolutely dreadful tactic that is routinely used by the worst manipulators, abusers and bullies to justify their horrible behaviour. “X has it worse, so stop complaining when I do Y.”

I note that Rossiter-Stead pleads for those making crank calls to “increase the frequency of their calls”. I guess he thought that lots of calls would improve the chances of detection. However I cannot believe that the police or Vodafone are jumping with joy at an email that encourages the recipients to break the law. It does make you wonder whether the police were aware of Rossiter-Stead’s decision to email the Wairarapa swimming world with his problems. My bet is they would be less than pleased with this last paragraph. I suspect the police had no idea that they were about to star in Rossiter-Stead’s email.

It’s a small point but it does irk me that on three occasions Rossiter-Stead refers to swimming as a children’s sport. Of course that is true. Swimming is a children’s sport. So are cricket, rugby, netball, boxing, track and field and football. But swimming is also so much more. What Lauren Boyle, Michael Phelps, Camille Muffat and others do is not children’s sport. It may make Rossiter-Stead’s membership of the Wellington Board more effective if he understood the sport better than is implied by this email.

Did you know that Mark Twain was born on the day of the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835, and died on the day of its next appearance in 1910? According to Rossiter-Stead logic Halley’s Comet caused both events. There is, he says, “a clear pattern to the timing of these, which appear to be strongly connected to my voluntary work with swimming. They begin a few minutes after a significant event in the swimming community and continue to coincide with group emails either sent by me or sent to me”. The logic of that assertion is quite ridiculous – just as ridiculous as suggesting Rossiter-Smith’s email was sent out to coincide with a Club meeting being called two days later to ask when the governance body was going to report to members as required by its terms of appointment.

Certainly this email raises more questions and suspicions than it answers; suspicions and questions that can only be answered by the author. While the confusion continues I am pleased Sam Rossiter-Stead is in Wellington. My impression is that the Wellington Board, Swimming New Zealand and Sam may be well suited to each other.

Excellence, Integrity, Accountability

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

By David

These three words conclude each item of correspondence coming from Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand. Their use was ordered by Christian Renford, the Australian appointed to be CEO of the new Swimming New Zealand. In the past few weeks Swimwatch has highlighted behaviour that makes a mockery of any association excellence, integrity and accountability might have with the new Swimming New Zealand. For example:

  1. The courting of Auckland’s Brian Palmer when Miskimmin needed Palmer’s support. Followed by Moller’s public demand for his resignation once power had been secured. Happily Miskimmin and Moller failed. Brian’s involvement with swimming in Auckland continued until he resigned for sporting challenges elsewhere. (Incidentally and way off the point of this story, Today I heard Brian’s daughter sing the National Anthem at the Auckland Open Championships. It was a privilege – she’s brilliant.)
  2. The manipulation of badly worded selection criteria.
  3. The imposition of substantial price increases way outside the rules of the organization.
  4. The refusal to promptly acknowledge the danger and illegality of using the Kilbirnie pool’s shallow end.

But all that appears trivial in comparison to some of the stuff that has come my way in recent weeks. I could have written about these events sooner but wanted to check the facts, as far as is possible, before posting them on the internet. What I plan to do in this post is summarize five items of Swimming New Zealand and/or Wellington Region behaviour. In five future posts I will then consider each example in detail including the emails and meeting minutes that support the stories. And so here is the list of five events.


The negotiations that went on to absorb the Wairarapa Swimming Region into the Wellington Region were led by a guy called Sam Rossiter-Stead. It seems that the Wellington Region of Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand may be an ideal home for this character. The amalgamation he directed appears to have been beset by intrigue, deception and broken promises. For example in May 2013 not everyone in the Wairarapa wanted to see their Region disappear into a greater Wellington Region. Mr Rossiter-Stead was having trouble delivering Wairarapa to the Wellington Board. And so on 9th May 2013 at 9.34pm he wrote an email and distributed it to most members of the Wairarapa Region. This is a summary of what the Rossiter-Stead email said:

I have been on the receiving end of a series of crank phone calls. I have been working with the police to identify the culprit and have given them a list of members to check out. They have approved me sending out this email, but have asked not to disclose any more information about the nature of the calls.

Rossiter-Stead’s email triggered suspicion and division in the Wairarapa. It was taken to the police for verification. Quite stunningly Masterton Police reported that no complaint had been laid. There was no investigation and the police would never encourage anyone to send out such an inflammatory email. It would be interesting to hear Sam Rossiter-Stead’s side of this story. Surely the Wairarapa Region was not conned out of existence by an “orchestrated litany of” SNZ porkies. Having delivered the Wairarapa jewel, Sam Rossiter-Stead now sits on the Board of the Wellington Region. Reward, perhaps, for a job well done?


Swimming Wellington really does need to confirm or deny the validity of this story. Because if it’s true then someone should appear before the Sport’s Tribunal to be tried and if guilty banned from the sport for life. Some time ago I received the following email:

In February 2013 Swim Wellington administration uploaded a Wairarapa swimming club meet to Take Your Marks database that was fictitious and never signed off by the region’s Chief Technical Officer.  This fictitious meet provided a swimmer with a national age group time.  The issue was raised by the Chief Technical Officer for the region with both Swim Wellington and SNZ to which no response was given and the meet and the time stood.

If this is true, the efforts of every honest swimmer are put at risk. The validity of the Take Your Marks website is savagely compromised. It is disgusting that Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand has not even replied to a complaint from the Wairarapa Region. Perhaps fictitious meets and padded resumes are not a problem in the new Swimming New Zealand. Their inaction places a question mark over the fitness of the new Swimming New Zealand to control a “data base” of member’s private details. The whole swimming “data base” project should be stopped until the organization’s actions in this case are examined. Certainly the alleged dishonesty demands caution until a full investigation is completed.


During the negotiations to absorb Wairarapa into the Wellington Region their appears to have been unseemly haste to get Wellington or Swimming New Zealand or some ones hands on Wairarapa’s money. Email correspondence gives the impression that for some, building an empire was more important than the welfare of Wairarapa’s swimmers. For example the tone of the discussion between Wairarapa officials and the pro-Wellington lobby deteriorated into this sort of email comment. “Your email has unfortunately brought further embarrassment at a time when we are trying to rebuild our credibility following the unsavoury issues which have arisen during the last few months. In order to maintain the integrity of our organisation it is critical that you understand that you have no authority to make any further requests for payment or to pay any invoices.”

The tone of this comment made to men and women who for years have toiled in the service of a small New Zealand swimming region is unnecessary, bad mannered and insulting. The author should be ashamed. Anyway back to the money.

The Wairarapa Region had $24,000; $10,000 in a life member’s Wairarapa Building Society deposit account, $10,000 in a short term Masterton West Pac deposit account and $4,000 in a Masterton West Pac current account. I doubt there is a money person alive who does not know that changing signatories requires the approval of the old signatories. Instead of getting that approval, I have been told, that Sam Rossiter-Stead and two others turned up at the West Pac Cuba Street Branch in Wellington with a suspect set of Wairarapa AGM Minutes asking for the signatories to be changed. Westpac of course are far too professional to hand over control of $14,000 to three dudes off the street with some photocopied minutes. They were told to go back to Westpac in the Wairarapa and sort out the proper procedure. The moral here of course is “Regions Beware”. The Wairarapa experience suggests that Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand might have getting the keys to your region’s bank accounts as its top priority. In a Governance Committee meeting on 16 June 2013 Swimming New Zealand is reported to have said, “Opportunity for others to follow. Other Regions could take lead with this project.”


In the end, a Special General Meeting was called and the signatories were changed. But, what has happened to Wairarapa’s $24,000? I have just heard that the $10,000 life member’s fund has been distributed to four Wairarapa clubs. So far, so good. However no one I’ve spoken to seems to know where the balance of $14,000 has ended up. Someone suggested Wellington should be paid a “goodwill” amount. Others wanted this sum to also be distributed to the Wairarapa clubs. But the two clubs I’ve spoken to haven’t received a penny. So where is the $14,000? Was it paid to the Wellington Region? Was the “loyalty” of the Masterton Club rewarded while others missed out? Who knows? As SNZ have said, the mystery of it all should act as a lead. A lead to stay well away from the tangled web that has beset the good people of the Wairarapa.


A feature that characterises all authoritarian regimes is their effort to manipulate and control public opinion. Those that get away with bad stuff don’t want the world to know. Perhaps Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand has something to hide. Certainly this story suggests they are into manipulating the opinion of their members.

One Wellington swimming club includes Swimwatch on the “Links” page of its club website. A few months ago a representative of Wellington Swimming attended the Club’s monthly Board meeting. The principle purpose of the visit was to demand the club remove the Swimwatch link. It appears Wellington Swimming was running scared; unaware of Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights. For their education this is what it says; “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

I am delighted to report that the Club’s committee was both unafraid and aware of their human rights. They told the Wellington Region’s representative to take a hike. I really am not concerned about whether Swimwatch appears on a club’s link page or not. I am however very concerned about defending the right of anyone to access whatever relevant information and opinions they want. Wellington’s behavior is why Moller’s constitution is so dangerous. On this occasion Wellington failed. It will not stop them trying again. It will not stop their boundless quest for uncontested power.

I doubt there is a Swimwatch reader who isn’t wondering how possibly fake reports of crank phone calls, apparently fictitious swim meets and a lolly-scramble to get hold of Wairarapa’s money match up with Renford’s brag of excellence integrity and accountability. But, as you will know, they don’t – and that of course is the point.