Archive for May, 2014

Don’t Mess With Computer People

Friday, May 30th, 2014

By David

I imagine Swimming Wellington was well pleased with the slick timing of their move to add Chris Dyhrberg’s name to the list of those attending their March Board meeting. I wonder if it ever occurred to any Wellington types to claim that his name was always on the minutes. I wonder if it ever occurred to any Swimwatch critics to speculate that the author of Swimwatch had just fabricated a litany of lies to make the Wellington Region look bad.

Well if anything like that did happen, an anonymous commenter has found the original minutes of the March meeting and sent it through. It appears as a comment on my post from yesterday. Thanks, “Quicklink” (the name the commenter left). Much appreciated! Here is the message I have just received from Jane.

“The file with 1 at the end of the file name in the URL is the modified one, the file with “2014” at the end is the original. – modified – original

Attached, in case they take either down as well.”

In other words, the original minutes are still online; Swimming Wellington just changed the URL linked to on this page to point to the file name with a “1” after “2014” and before “.pdf”. I’m sure they’ll now delete the original file, but we have saved both the file and a screenshot of it live online for posterity. Enjoy:

Original URL and minutes:

Modified URL and minutes:

Full document (original minutes).

Full document (modified minutes).

And so we have the “smoking gun”, the evidence that the approved minutes were altered without Board approval, without a motion of consent and in violation of any meeting protocols. There is a problem when organisations start doing this sort of thing. There are some nasty people out there. People who may believe that an organisation capable of making a change like this may make more serious changes in the future. Today’s addition of a Board member’s name might be the beginning of a slippery slope. Imagine if members began to fear that qualifying times were being altered, meet details were being changed or police reports were being fabricated. That’s why the rules are there of course.

And so thank you “Quicklink” the anonymous commenter for finding that and sending it through, and thank you Jane for saving the two versions. Two geeks may have just confirmed our Swimwatch story. But more importantly two geeks may have made the Wellington Region of the new Swimming New Zealand more respectful of the rules.

Altering minutes and fiddling with Board votes was the stock-in-trade of the old Swimming New Zealand. We could have done without it then and Wellington we can certainly do without it now.

Wellington, Really – You Didn’t

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

By David

I was going to write this post as a comment below the previous Swimwatch story. That’s the post titled, “Antares Place behind Closed Doors”. In the story I discussed the decision of Swimming New Zealand to no longer post their monthly Board minutes on the website for the members to read. I also discussed the decision of the Wellington Region to move into committee in their March and April Board meetings. I am fairly certain the Swimwatch blog was the topic discussed in the Wellington Board’s secret forty minutes. However the paragraph that interests me most is one that I wrote almost as an afterthought. This is what it said:

But while you are considering the possible shortcomings of Swimwatch, I must say I am at a loss to understand how Chris Dyhrberg could have been the mover of both the March motions. According to the list of those present at the meeting Chris Dyhrberg wasn’t there. That UFB network obviously works better than any of us thought. Or perhaps, the Swimming New Zealand disease is spreading.

Someone in Wellington must be a fervent reader of this blog. By midday today; less that twelve hours after the story was posted someone in Wellington had altered the March minutes to include Chris Dyhrberg’s name in the list of those attending the meeting.

I had not saved the original copy of the minutes (I now dearly wish I had, and if anyone has that copy, please feel free to email it to me or link to it in a comment). Unfortunately, neither Google nor has a cached copy of the document, which I am told is fairly normal for a PDF file similar to this. Swimming New Zealand and Swimming Wellington should be aware that any attempts to alter HTML pages on their website for similar purposes will be easier to spot.

Would you believe it? The Wellington Region of Swimming New Zealand is into altering previously Board approved minutes. Because the minutes, with Dyhrberg’s name absent, were approved as a true and accurate record of the March meeting by those present at the April meeting. Ironically it was the Chairman, Mark Berge, who moved the motion confirming the minutes as correct. In a Monte Python twist it was Chris Dyhrberg who seconded Berge’s motion.

Had Dyhrberg even read the minutes he was asking the Board to approve. After all it was his name that was missing.

But, missing a name is a simple mistake and easily made by all of us. What is not simple at all is the decision of someone in Wellington to simply alter the approved minutes. That’s bad, very bad. There is a clearly established set of rules for altering errors in previously approved minutes. This is how those rules are described in “Robert’s Rules of Order”.

If it becomes necessary to correct minutes after they have initially been approved, such correction can be made by means of the motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted. In this event, since the motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted is a main motion, the exact wording of that motion, whether adopted or rejected, should be entered in the minutes of the meeting at which it was considered.

In other words, having been told by Swimwatch there was an error in their March minutes the correct procedure was for Wellington to move a motion at their June meeting seeking approval to add Chris Dyhrberg’s name to the list of those present. As a parliamentary tutor put it:

Approved minutes are carved in stone. Any changes are recorded in the minutes of the meeting at which the changes are adopted. The original minutes remain unaltered.

I know the change is a small one. However those responsible for managing a sporting charity should be aware of the principle involved in altering approved minutes. A small change today may have the potential of becoming what tomorrow. The decision to just alter a set of the Region’s minutes makes Wellington look very bad. It gives the impression of a not too clever cover-up. Shape up you guys. Your members have a right to expect better than this. The error in this case was not the original simple mistake. The error, as so often happens, is in the attempted cover up.

Antares Place Behind Closed Doors

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

By David

The title of this post is not original. It is taken from the name of a popular TV mini-series, “Washington Behind Closed Doors”; the story of a power-hungry United States President, and the men he surrounded himself with in order to keep his hold on power. The Washington story was based on a book about the Nixon administration written by John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s council and Assistant for Domestic Affairs.

For some time I have expressed the view that the new Swimming New Zealand is worse than the Cameron/Byrne version. The sport of Swimming appears to have lurched out of the frying pan, into the fire. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the public record of the organization’s decision making. In the Byrne era the minutes of every Board Meeting were published on the Swimming New Zealand website. Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand publishes nothing. As I said, Antares Place behind closed doors.

Please don’t think Swimwatch is going soft on the Byrne and Cameron period. In those days the Board Minutes were often late and their accuracy was not always the best. But the Minutes were available. They were posted on the website. Members of the sport had a record they could read and gain some understanding of how the Board arrived at its decisions.

Those days have gone. There is no place for, “better late than never”, in the new Swimming New Zealand. Never alone will do just fine. The impression of arrogant distain is overwhelming. Do the inhabitants of Antares Place really believe we have no right to know about the Board’s deliberations? Do they think we are too stupid to understand the Board’s decisions? Are they scared of our judgment? Are they trying to hide something? Why do they hide what they are doing from the membership?

Because we do want to know. We want to read the Board minutes. We want to see and have on file a record of what the Board of the new Swimming New Zealand decide. We are interested. And so Messrs Layton and Renford put the minutes back on the website. Stop treating every member of the sport as a mushroom – keeping us in the dark and feeding us shit.

Actually responsibility for the secrecy of the Swimming New Zealand Board meetings may go further up than Layton and Renford. In the new Swimming New Zealand I suspect lots of things go further up than those two. I am no expert in the analysis of sporting websites, but I have searched through the main sports that Miskimmin has reviewed and brought under the control of Sport New Zealand; rowing, canoeing, cycling and swimming. I can’t find a Board minute in any of them.

I have been told that Miskimmin is a political animal, well skilled in covering his tracks. It is difficult to avoid the thought that perhaps his political acumen has included ordering or suggesting the sports of cycling, swimming, canoeing and rowing keep their Board discussions and decisions confidential.

Whatever the motivation, however secrecy became the norm, whoever was responsible, the end result has been bad for sport. Open government works best and the Miskimmin sporting regime is certainly far from open government. That needs to change quickly.

One unusual Region of Swimming New Zealand that does publish its Board minutes is Wellington. Well done Wellington. However my respect for their openness was tempered recently with the publication of the March and April Board Minutes. The March meeting was pretty standard until 8.55pm when the minutes say Chris Dyhrberg moved and Sam Rossiter-Stead seconded a decision to move into committee. Of course we do not know what was discussed in the 35 minutes until Chris Dyhrberg moved and Kevin Burnett seconded a motion moving the meeting out of committee.

However, right around the time of the March meeting Swimwatch was discussing the amalgamation of the Wairarapa Region into Wellington. My bet is the Wellington Chairman, Mark Berge and Sam Rossiter-Stead wanted to debate the involvement of Swimwatch in the affairs of the Wellington Region. If that is the case I am disappointed Wellington did not have their discussions in the open. Have they got something to hide? If it’s good enough to talk about me, say it to my face. If you think Swimwatch has published something in error, point it out, ask for an apology. Perhaps the Rossiter-Stead email never existed. Perhaps the crank phone calls never existed.

But while you are considering the possible shortcomings of Swimwatch, I must say I am at a loss to understand how Chris Dyhrberg could have been the mover of both the March motions. According to the list of those present at the meeting Chris Dyhrberg wasn’t there. That UFB network obviously works better than any of us thought. Or perhaps, the Swimming New Zealand disease is spreading.

In the following month, April, Mark Berge moved the meeting into committee again, but this time for only for ten minutes. Once again if Swimwatch occupied ten minutes of Wellington’s time I’m sure it could have been discussed in the open. Certainly, if Wellington needs the permission of the principals involved in Swimwatch to publish their discussions, they have our wholehearted consent. Go for it.

Swimwatch has occasionally been accused of hiding the identity of its writers and publishers. That’s rubbish of course. Perhaps our critics should shift their attention to the new Swimming New Zealand and the Wellington Region. There they will find the secrecy of unpublished minutes and at least forty minutes of unrecorded debate. Now that is cause for concern.

Does Swimming New Zealand Cheat?

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

By David

Most swimming people are aware that the Miskimmin $1.4 million a year swim school in Auckland could only qualify two swimmers for individual events at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. And one of those, Lauren Boyle, isn’t training at the Millennium Institute any more, preferring the Spanish Sierra Mountains and a good French coach.

Commonwealth Game’s team numbers have been padded with the addition of ten relay swimmers. Swimming New Zealand, being the masters of spin, call it a team of fourteen. They actually call the team more than that. The Swimming New Zealand website says, “Powerful swimming team named for Glasgow 2014” and then lists the fourteen swimmers. I wonder if Miskimmin’s boss, Murray McCully, realizes that our multi-million dollar investment in foreign coaches, alien administrators and state of the art swimming pools at the Millennium Institute gifted the nation a “powerful” Glasgow team of two. As far back as 1930 New Zealand domestic coaches managed to get three swimmers under the individual event qualifying standard. Not a lot of progress there it seems.

It would be difficult for anyone in Swimming New Zealand to convince me swimming is making progress. For three nights this week I have watched the Oceania Swimming Championships at the West Wave Pool in Auckland. Mark Bone’s commentary is embarrassing. He excitedly communicates the gold medal count as though this was a rugby Bledisloe Test match. But of course it is not. Australia selected a junior, under18 team to compete in this Oceania meet. The New Zealand team has a full complement of Commonwealth Games relay swimmers plus Matt Stanley competing against a team of Australian secondary school children. Like Lauren Boyle, the real Australian team is quietly preparing for bigger challenges in Glasgow. But, listen to Bone’s commentary and you’d be forgiven for thinking New Zealand was about to overcome Klim, Rice, Thorpe, Fraser, Gould, Thomas, Trickett, Jones and Hackett at their best. At one stage I was beginning to wonder whether Bone’s heart was going to stand the excitement. “We are ending tonight,” Bone exclaimed, “all tied up at sixteen gold medals each.”

Really Mark Bone? No wonder swimming has problems. New Zealand’s national team is in a tie with a bunch of Australian swimmers who’ve been told to bring their high school homework to New Zealand and an ex-national coach can hardly contain his delight. Reality it seems is but a distant memory. One Australian in the audience tonight said to me, “That commentator is making New Zealand swimming look stupid.” I had little option but to agree.

However the presence of so many New Zealand Commonwealth relay swimmers got me thinking about the merits of their selection. When the team was first announced I accepted the validity of fielding numerous relay teams – of course, why not? I even noticed and accepted the sentence at the end of Swimming New Zealand’s team announcement that said: “Note that swimmers may swim in other events for the Commonwealth Games.” If a swimmer was in Glasgow to swim a relay, why not put him or her into an individual event? Who knows, one of them might swim way above his or her past and bring glory to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

I was a little concerned that the “add-on” relay provision was not included in the original conditions of selection. Adding an important condition on after the team announcement is typical of the slack management we have come to expect. It seems some of the old Swimming New Zealand tricks are still alive and well. It is not the first time Swimming New Zealand have shifted the goal posts to suit themselves. However the relay provision seemed to benefit swimmers, perhaps all was well.

But then I thought about it some more and a dark and sinister reality began to emerge. Was Swimming New Zealand at it again? Were they behaving badly? Were they cheating? The organization had published a set of qualifying times for Glasgow individual events. Only four swimmers swam faster than those times. But, because of the relay swimmers, Swimming New Zealand had found a way of adding another ten swimmers to the list of those qualified to swim in individual events. It seems too tricky for words. It is certainly typical of the sleight of hand we have come to expect from those who run things from Antares Place these days. There is the impression that if things don’t go the way SNZ want, they will find a way to bend the rules. In sport and in life that is never a good impression.

But the swimmers I feel for most are those who came so close to qualifying and didn’t make the team. Swimmers like Kurt Crosland. You may recall he is the backstroke swimmer from Dunedin who missed the cut in the 100m by just 0.25sec. He clocked 54.88sec. The qualifying mark was 54.63sec. His personal best, 54.70, is even closer. Alistair McMurran from The Otago Daily Times wrote an article about how he felt the selection standards were unfair. McMurran would have been better to focus on something that does seem unfair. Because of Swimming New Zealand’s last minute relay “add-on” rule, a swimmer, slower than Crosland, could end up swimming in the 100 backstroke in Glasgow. If I was Crosland, I’d feel a bit cheated at that.

An even better example is Sophia Batchelor. You may recall she missed selection for the London Olympic Team by just one one-hundredth of a second. She was short of the mark and stayed home. It would be understandable if she felt a bit miffed now, seeing swimmers well short of their qualifying times, lining up to swim in individual events in Glasgow. She, quite rightly, missed a trip to London for the sake of a hundredth of a second. And yet Swimming New Zealand is fine putting swimmers, way worse than that, in individual events in Glasgow. It might not be cheating. It might not be dishonest. It might not even be unfair. But it most certainly does give that impression.

Swimming New Zealand has a rule for their National Championships. It says, “Only swimmers who have met and entered at least one required individual qualifying standard in the respective competition may be entered in relay events.” Why is the organization incapable of being consistent? Why do they give themselves easier standards than they impose on the rest of us? Add-on, last minute rules clearly aimed at including ten individual swimmers who could not qualify on their own is such a bad look. But then, as we know, there is much that Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand does these days that has a bad look about it.

PS – On the subject of the Oceania Swimming Championships I was interested to watch a synchronized swimming competition for the first time. It’s a tough sport. Just look at two of the officials they have for dealing with those who misbehave. The Governor of Texas would approve.

The Politics Of Funding Sport

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

By David

For a small country the New Zealand government puts a lot of money into sport and recreation. In a document Sport New Zealand call their Statement of Intent, the amount to be spent in 2013/2014 will be about $125 million; most of which will come from the government and some from Lottery Grant income. The Statement of Intent is actually an important document. This is the story Sport New Zealand put to the government which, once approved, provides the authority to go off and spend, spend, spend.

Page 34 of the Statement of Intent tells us the $125 million will be spent as is shown in the table below.







Sundry Admin and Research



High Performance






That High Performance money ($62,500,000) gets spent through a branch of Sport New Zealand called High Performance Sport New Zealand. The table below shows the sort of amounts High Performance Sport New Zealand has handed out recently to five of New Zealand sport’s largest recipients.















So what does Sport New Zealand tell the government these big amounts are going to be spent on? What policy did they ask the government to approve? Did the approval include a fleet of Mazda SUVs for Swimming New Zealand? Well the answer to all those questions is in the Statement of Intent. And this is what Sport New Zealand told the government. This is how Sport New Zealand said they were going to spend our tax dollars. High Performance Sport New Zealand would buy us all the following (page 22, PDF file).

We want New Zealand’s most talented athletes to be identified and developed, and to win on the world sporting stage. We will work with, and invest in, those sports that are capable of producing results on the world stage. In particular we will:

• lead a highly effective high performance system that ensures resources are targeted and prioritised to deliver performance outcomes

• assist NSOs to build world-class coaching and high performance programme leadership

• enhance the daily training and competition environments (meeting targeted sports’ high performance facility needs)

• deliver quality performance support for our athletes and coaches

• work in partnership to increase the high performance capability of NSOS

• strengthen high performance athlete development (including talent identification and development)

• lead an integrated and robust innovation and research programme to drive increased performance.”

And do you know what that is? It’s rubbish. It’s a smoke screen. It’s weasel words designed to mean whatever the authors decide. Any structure from the most laissez-faire democracy to a soviet gulag could fit comfortably into those goals and aims. What Minister of the Crown; what cabinet meeting is going to disagree with “assisting to build world class coaching” or “strengthen high performance athlete development”. Voting against that stuff would have been as impossible as voting against the abolition of slavery. No wonder Sport New Zealand got the approval of cabinet.

It seems to me that Sport New Zealand has taken the National Government’s approval of the nothing-words in the Statement of Intent and has embarked on the wholesale socialisation of sport in New Zealand. I bet no National Party cabinet meeting was aware that was going to be the product of their vote.

As we know it is the function of government to make policy. It is the function of civil servants to action the policy. Good government demands that those roles are not muddled. In the case of sport in New Zealand, it is arguable that by presenting Cabinet with a mass of generalities, the bureaucrats in Sport New Zealand have been able to make policy and action it. Sport New Zealand could well have found a tricky way to exceed their authority and their power.

And the policy they prepared and have followed is to centralize the delivery of elite sport. But I bet the alternative, chosen by the sport of swimming in the USA, France and recently Australia, of a private enterprise, diversified delivery structure was never discussed with John Key or Murray McCully and was never debated around the cabinet table. In Sport New Zealand it seems the organization’s civil servants had their socialist goals firmly in mind. All they needed was the National Cabinet to approve a sufficiently vague policy and their bureaucratic plans could proceed unchallenged. And that’s what they achieved when John Key’s cabinet approved Sport New Zealand’s Statement of Intent.

Somehow, for the good of swimming, we must bring the parlous state of sport, the futile and pointless pursuit of the centralized delivery of sport and the generation of failure that the policy has caused in swimming to the attention of politicians on both sides. Members of all parties need to be made aware of the decisions being made in their name. The subject of how sport is delivered in New Zealand has to become a topic of genuine political debate. All the alternatives, socialist and diversified, need to be presented. Sport New Zealand has not done that. Sport New Zealand will not do that. Not while they are up to their eyeballs in new foreign coaches, imported alien administrators, a new swimming pool, a new velodrome and clearing a lake in the Waikato. Sport New Zealand is too committed to the central control of New Zealand sport to back out now.

The facts are so very simple. I am certain John Key, David Cunliffe, Winston Peters, Russell Norman and Te Ururoa Flavell have no idea of the futile waste involved in centralising New Zealand sport. Those leaders are not aware of how much of the $62,500,000 High Performance vote is wasted. A very personal story may help them understand the error of Sport New Zealand’s current policy. A few years ago New Zealand’s best swimmer was a young man called Danyon Loader from Dunedin. In the modern world of Sport New Zealand, Danyon Loader would have been plucked out of Dunedin and placed in the care of a High Performance coach at the Auckland Millennium Institute. And New Zealand would have lost an Olympic silver and two Olympic gold medals.

Why? Because Loader had a special relationship with his family, his town, his school and most of all with his rough diamond coach; a man called Duncan Laing; a man, who before Loader, the likes of Miskimmin and his Sport New Zealand mates would never categorize as “world-class coaching and high performance programme leadership”. At Miskimmin’s Millennium Institute, without the rock and special relationship of his home coach, Danyon Loader would have withered and died; just as a dozen other potential Loaders have vanished on the pyre of Sport New Zealand dogma.

If any reader of this post knows a New Zealand politician, please ask them to read what we have said. Our arguments may be rejected. That is fine. They should however at least be heard.