State Control or Private Enterprise

By David

Swimwatch readers will realise that philosophically this blog prefers the provision of sport via a private enterprise system of delivery. Currently New Zealand practises a very centralized state controlled method of sport delivery; born, nurtured and imposed by the CEO of Sport New Zealand, Peter Miskimmin.

Very few people in sport express disapproval of Miskimmin’s state control of the means of sporting trade and production. Self-interest and personal profit demand loyalty to the state. Financial penalties can be quick and severe on any who call for Miskimmin to step aside; to get out of an activity he is not equipped to manage and is suffering as a result of his presence. Sadly the silence of the majority and the vociferous support of a few are taken as evidence of widespread support. They are not. They simply reflect the power of self-preservation; the fear of financial retribution.

Certainly there is no evidence that Miskimmin’s state control delivery of elite sport produces better outcomes. Just look at swimming. In the era before Miskimmin and Cameron and the government’s millions, swimming was managed and controlled from two offices in Wellington’s Dominion Building. There was a meeting room and a small crowded office that housed the hard working, underpaid, skilled sole and part time employee, Donella Tait. How on earth she has never been awarded life membership of the organization is beyond me. The hallway between the two rooms was dark and slightly unnerving. It gave the impression Donella had removed light bulbs to reduce the organization’s power bill.

Hallway, meeting room and office walls were covered in faded pictures of New Zealand’s best swimmers. Swimmers produced by a federal private enterprise system of production and control. In those days a democratically elected Board saw their role as assisting as far as they could the Regions and clubs produce New Zealand’s best swimmers. Today’s Board elected in a Syrian style mockery of democracy clearly see the role of Swimming New Zealand as controlling the training of good swimmers. Why else would they provide scholarships, hire coaches and rent copious pool and gym space in Auckland and Wellington?

So how did the clubs, the federally elected Board and Donella Tait get on? Did the club’s produce any good swimmers in the era before the government’s Antares Place swim school; before Miskimmin, over ten years, poured $20,000,000 into swimming; before the era of fat cat bureaucrats on inflated salaries and leather bound, air conditioned Mazda SUVs? Well, the following list is not researched. It comes only from the writer’s memory. But the private enterprise delivery of swimming didn’t do too badly. For example:

Gary Hurring – Commonwealth Gold, World LC Championship Silver, Olympic fourth

Anthony Mosse – Olympic Bronze, Commonwealth 2xGold, Silver and Bronze

Paul Kingsman – Olympic Bronze, Commonwealth Games 3xSilver and Bronze

Anna Simcic – Commonwealth Gold and 2xSilver, Olympic Games fifth, world record

Toni Jeffs – Commonwealth Games 2xBronze, WC Finals Bronze

Paul Kent – World SC Championships Gold and Silver

Philippa Langrell – Olympic Games fourth,

Danyon Loader, Olympic 2xGold and Silver, World LC Championships Silver and 2xBronze, Commonwealth Games Gold, 3xSilver, 2xBronze, world record

Jonathan Winter – World SC Championships Gold

Trent Bray – World SC Championships Gold, 3xSilver, Commonwealth Games 3xSilver and Bronze

Of course this list of the products of a free enterprise system of elite sport delivery does not include previous generation winners such as Dave Gerrard, Malcolm Champion, Jean Stewart, Lincoln Hurring, Margaret Macrae, Mark Treffers, Judith Wright, Rebecca Perrott, Michael Davidson, Liz van Wellie, Natalie Wiegersma and a dozen others.

Oh, how Miskimmin would love to be able to boast a list of that quality. But, after ten years and $20,000,000 he can’t. Of course Miskimmin and Swimming New Zealand would claim the talented World SC Champion, Lauren Boyle. But, make no mistake, Boyle’s career was conceived in West Auckland under the guidance of Donna Bouzaid and nurtured and blossomed at Cal Berkley by Terri McKever. It seems to me that Swimming New Zealand’s contribution has been limited to money and chaos. That Boyle has survived at all is a colossal testament to the determination and talent of New Zealand’s current best swimmer.

So if Miskimmin’s millions haven’t purchased results what have they bought? Well, gone is Donella Tait’s sole charge bureaucracy. Gone too are the two offices and a dark hallway. Today Miskimmin’s idea of “professional management” is costing us a fortune in offices and twenty or thirty employees, for what?

It seems to have produced a generation of sporting “fat cats”; an entourage of hangers-on who feed off Miskimmin’s millions and the toil of Boyle, Snyders and hundreds of others in your club and mine. While Renford distributes a document telling us he owns a three storey house in Sydney worth in “the vicinity of $1.5million” and, I’m told, owns another a block away from Takapuna Beach in Auckland, has your club or mine changed in any way from the day Langrell swam for Wharenui, or Kingsman represented Roskill or Kent trained at West Auckland Aquatics. Miskimmin’s followers drive around in climate controlled luxury and accumulate international capital assets while nothing in the trenches has changed.

So what do we do about it? No one here is suggesting we go back to two offices, a dark hallway and one part time assistant. But we are in trouble. Administrators have to combine into a new “Coalition of Regions” and reclaim control of their sport. The Syrian style of democracy introduced by Chris Moller’s constitution has to be turned back. And that’s the task of caring administrators. Millennium Institute swimming has to be privatised and stand on its own financial feet. Swimming should receive the same financial help but that money needs to strengthen the structures and free enterprise philosophy that gave us Loader, Mosse and Kingsman – and Boyle for that matter.

And every club coach must understand that they have a fundamental responsibility to the sport to coach swimmers capable of defeating those swimming at the government’s swim school. We have to demonstrate that with all their money and posh cars and expensive houses we can do swimming better. The Millennium Institute and those who nurture it are the enemy within and must be defeated.

  • Viliame Waka

    very interesting indeed.

  • David

    This is what Miskimmin and Renford told us would happen. Let’s hold them accountable – that’s their wish.

    Swimming NZ is recognised as having one of the leading sustainable programmes in New Zealand for consistently producing high performance swimming and open water
    Commonwealth Games
    Medals 7
    Finals (4-8) 5
    Finals 12

  • Rings Battersby?

    Perhaps someone can explain how Nikita Howarth can qualify for a 100m event and finish 15 seconds behind the winner yet Batchelor or Croslands best times are about one second from bronze yet they can not qualify?