A Canker That Eats The Soul

By David

Secrecy breeds distrust, fear and paranoia. The style feeds on itself. As group performance and situations deteriorate, secrecy management becomes more controlling, secretive, defensive, and untrusting. What does it say to an organization if the top team is inaccessible, secretive, suspicious, does not show trust and is not trusted? What effect does this have on morale, motivation, commitment and, ultimately, productivity?

Swimwatch posts have often described the secrecy of the new Swimming New Zealand. Board Minutes are no longer published on the website. The content of monthly telephone discussions between Swimming New Zealand and the Regions are a closely guarded secret. There is no genuine democracy in the selection of the new Swimming New Zealand Board. But today the possible extent of Swimming New Zealand’s concealment reached unprecedented heights.

Before disclosing exactly what I believe happened today at Swimming New Zealand I should confess that my source may not have a full and accurate grasp of all the facts. You see, he manages a pub that has a thriving gambling machine business. As such he is acutely aware of the rules surrounding payment to local charities. And so with all the caution properly given to “pub talk” here is my informant’s account.

A recent decision of the Charities Board (30 September 2014), I was told, will significantly impact sports’ ability to obtain and retain charitable status under the Charities Act. Many sports clubs and organisations are increasingly finding it difficult to obtain charitable status, in what appears to have been a change in “policy” since the Charities Commission became the Charities Board. This looks set to become even harder following the decision to deregister Swimming New Zealand as a charity on 30 October 2014.

 The Charities Board has reported, “that as a general proposition bodies established to administer and manage a sporting code or discipline in a region or for a nation are likely to be established for the purpose of promoting sport as an ends in itself. As such entitles of this kind are likely to lie outside the scope of charity in New Zealand law, as reflected in section 5(2A) of the Act”

“entities acting as regional or national governing bodies for a sport may be seen to promote sport as a means to a number of ends, which are not exclusively charitable”

 “relevantly, the promotion of sports for elite athletes does not provide sufficient public benefit to qualify as charitable in law and the promotion of sporting success is not itself a charitable aim”

“an entity which is established with independent purposes to promote sport as a means to these ends will not fall within the scope of charity recognised in section 5(2A) of the Act”

 “the Board considers that Swimming NZ is established and maintained with a purpose of promoting success in competitive swimming as an end in itself. The Board considers that this conclusion is justified by reference to the constitution of Swimming NZ”

“while we recognise the importance of water safety and swimming skills for the general public, we are not convinced by the submission [that the promotion of elite and professional sports is a means to promote amateur entry level swimming and water safety in NZ]

This decision is important. The fact it has been kept secret from the grass roots membership of Swimming New Zealand is inexcusable and negligent. It is interesting and significant that the Charities Board did not decline a Swimming New Zealand application for charitable status. An existing entity (Swimming New Zealand) was deregistered; that means given the boot, probably as a result of Swimming New Zealand filing all those posh new amendments to its constitution and the obsession with the its privileged swim school at the Millennium Institute.

You see Swimming New Zealand’s secrecy, in this case, comes close to self-inflicted harm; even treason perhaps; certainly an own goal. Why? Because if your club is a charity, and most clubs are, you need to take legal advice about whether the new club constitution currently being forced on your club is going to result in the same disaster as the Head Office version. A new constitution has, today, cost Swimming New Zealand its charitable status. Club’s need to ensure that the incompetence of Antares Place does inflict the same deregistration penalty on us all.

It is very possible that the SNZ has put at risk the charitable status and funding of New Zealand’s smallest clubs. Who would have thought that in their ridiculous rush to seize power and fund a swim school at the Millennium Institute, Swimming New Zealand and Sport New Zealand would potentially undermine the funding base of every swim club in the country? One SNZ Board members, Margaret McKee, comes from a club in Gisborne that could well suffer as a result of this change to the charitable status of the sport. I do hope she feels some remorse if that is the consequence of the behaviour of her Board.

Charitable status is important. It can influence an organization’s income tax status. It can have a substantial bearing on obtaining funding from community and gaming trusts, some of whom will not provide grants unless a club is a registered charity. Other benefits include having donee status which may impact a club’s ability to obtain philanthropic monies. The new superstars that run Swimming New Zealand have just cost the parent organization those benefits. Clubs should exercise great caution about anything sourced at Antares Place.

Given the possibility of the harm to the grass roots of swimming that could arise as a result of Swimming New Zealand’s deregistration, it is stunningly unbelievable that Renford and Layton kept the deregistration secret. In any situation trusting those who lead the organization is vital. Events like this understandably tear trust to ribbons.

On the same day Swimming New Zealand was deregistered as a charity I did have to smile at the following headline, “NASA’s unmanned Antares rocket exploded unexpectedly Tuesday seconds after it took off.” Clearly NASA does not have the only Antares item likely to explode. Antares Place may soon follow; a welcome sign perhaps of things to come.