Archive for January, 2015

But These Men Really Matter

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

By David

A week ago we introduced you to the hired hands responsible for the chaos that is Swimming New Zealand. These men are powerful and they have had sufficient influence to wreak aquatic havoc in New Zealand. However these men, yes even Miskimmin and Layton and Renford, do have masters; people they report to, people who in my view they have conned blind. It is these “owners” of Sport New Zealand that are our best hope for reform. If we can convince them that the actions of their staff are profligate, dangerous, expensive and wrong then we may sow the seeds of change. If these men understand that the actions of Miskimmin and Baumann; the disaster that is Swimming New Zealand, will eventually cost them votes then they will order change.

Although that may sound overstated it is not and it is our best hope for reform.

Here then is a list of the owners.



Sir Paul Collins is the Chairman of Sport New Zealand. He is Miskimmin’s immediate boss. He has had more than his fair share of bad luck recently; being rolled as the boss of Brierley Investments and sitting on the Board of Mainzeal when it went belly up. Although I taught his children to swim my contact with Paul Collins was limited. However Collins’ business career was nurtured in the corporate raiding world of Brierley Investments; hardly an environment, one would have thought, that was wedded to the idea of the centralised control of anything. It is strange therefore that the principles that earned Collins many millions should be so far removed from the socialist principles promoted by Sport New Zealand. Why has he backed away from the laissez-faire policies he must have supported in his business life? I would love the opportunity to discuss that question. For it is at the heart of my opposition to the direction Miskimmin has imposed on Swimming New Zealand. It is the core reason Swimming New Zealand fail over and over again. Just as New Zealand provided Collins with the freedom to perform in business, Sport New Zealand needs to provide Swimming New Zealand with the freedom to swim. Of all people, Paul Collins, should understand that idea.


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Coleman is new to the job of Minister of Sport and Recreation. He is probably going through a self-imposed learning period. Certainly his public announcements have all carried a message of strong support for the centralized policies followed by the bureaucrats at Sport New Zealand. For example when the 2014 funding round was announced Coleman was fulsome in his praise and support for the policy being promoted by Sport New Zealand. However there is a glimmer of hope. Coleman is an intelligent, well-educated man. He is a medical doctor and also has an MBA from Harvard. He must understand that socialism in swimming does not work. He must recognize that two of the world’s most successful swimming nations (the USA and France) have rejected centralization in favour of a private enterprise model. The choice is between a team of one and a team of dozens – and the dozens win. And being a politician Coleman must appreciate the irony of his centre-right National government promoting and supporting a regime of strict socialism in the delivery of elite sport. Elite sport is not health or education or roads or the armed forces. Elite sport is best provided by a private enterprise market. Sadly Miskimmin’s Sport New Zealand has promoted the socialist view so successfully that the private enterprise option is never even discussed. We can only hope that Coleman’s trained mind realises that there is another way.


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McCully is now the Associate Minister of Sport and Recreation. But for years he was the boss – the Minister of Sport and Recreation. In that time he signed off on Miskimmin’s increasingly socialist plans. He agreed to the massive expansion of Sport New Zealand’s power – the visceral power that comes from exploiting financial control. However two events did occur during the McCully years that provide us with reason for hope. Outstanding athletes, Valerie Adams and Ben Fouhy, were unhappy with the centralized, Millennium Institute control of their preparation. However, staying inside the Miskimmin regime meant that was all there was on offer. Somehow they managed to plead their case directly with Murray McCully. To his eternal credit he supported their call for independence. He acknowledged their right to self-determination. And in the case of Valerie Adams the result was a torrent of 50 consecutive victories; victories that would not have happened if Miskimmin had prevailed. Surely Murray McCully can understand all swimming in New Zealand want is the right to plead the same case. Provide us with the independence McCully so sagely gifted to Valerie Adams and swimming will yield rewards in full measure. Swimming is trapped in Miskimmin’s world. Provide us with the freedom to breath and swimming will win for this proud little country.


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The overall boss has a lot more to do that worry about the minority sport of swimming. However he is the leader of a centre-right government. His grounding in finance was earned at Merrill Lynch and no one, anywhere would level the accusation of socialist at that bastion of the capitalist world. John Key was immersed in and was financially rewarded by participating in the ultimate capitalist, free trade, private enterprise market. All swimming is asking is for the John Key and his government to provide swimming with the same freedom to prosper that he got from Merrill Lynch. We need the freedom to trade, to do deals, to plot our personal course and be responsible for our own results. I am convinced that a government that had the courage to try the free enterprise model in just one sport would be rewarded tenfold by the New Zealand electorate. As John Key knows full well New Zealanders enjoy seeing a guy from a state house become Prime Minister. De-corporatize our sport; give swimming independence and the Prime Minister will again see gold around the necks of New Zealand swimmers.


Our Leaders

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

By David

Let Swimwatch introduce you to our leaders. As if the past two years were not enough, here is the team who reserve the right to lead us through the next 365 days. May God have mercy on our souls.



Miskimmin, The Dear Leader, may not be on any swimming Board or Committee but nothing happens without his approval. The current state of swimming is a direct consequence of the Miskimmin plan; a celestial plan (just look at the photograph) conceived on the day Brian Palmer and Bronwyn Radford, a select group known as The Sanctified, were invited to Wellington to meet The Dear Leader. I am told their visit involved a high security journey to a sanitised room where The Dear Leader appeared to cries from Sport New Zealand employees of “Long live our father”. Called to stand in front of Miskimmin’s table The Sanctified were ordered to swear a pact of secrecy. But if one steps back from the idea of concealment to see the Sport New Zealand kingdom for what it really is, it all comes down to the exercise of financial power in a most visceral form.



Alex Baumann is of little consequence. His role is essentially confined to putting Miskimmin’s plans into effect. There is a carpet-bagging aspect to his background – Canada, Australia, back to Canada and now New Zealand. Perhaps this transience suggests an unpredictability that may explain why he is the boss of High Performance Sport in New Zealand and yet sends his children back to swim for Canada or why he employs a National Swimming Coach in May 2013 and in December 2014 advertises for someone to replace his first choice or why when he was swimming he left an international training program in Indiana in order to return to his home town and train with long-time personal coach Jeno Tihanyi. Today he spends millions trying to convince NZ swimmers to do the opposite; to leave their home coach and train in a program not half as good as the one Baumann once left. I suspect he doesn’t believe in the product he’s employed to sell.



Those eyes! Would you buy a used Mazda from that man? The most ardent fan of the new Swimming New Zealand’s CEO would admit 2014 has not been kind to the Australian import. He penned a letter to a New Zealand Court extoling the virtues of a multiple drink driving employee. He had to apologize for forgetting that open water swimmers were part of the national team. He signed a world record application form swearing that the Wellington Pool met all FINA standards when every branch of the world’s swimming press knew that the pool did not comply. Decent swimmers have abandoned his state run Millennium swim school. The set of accounts he produced contained some really bad news for the sport. The sports primary sponsor left the sinking ship. And swimming at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Games was awful. I suspect The Dear Leader will be looking closely at the performance of this one of his subjects.



The fall guy – it seems.



Oh dear he’s gone too – but for old times’ sake – Salud, Cheers, Prost, Skaal, Gezondheid, Kampai



With the elusive skills of a Spanish matador Villanueva seems to be able to glide and step his way out of trouble. The organization’s swim school is in chaos and the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Games performance was a national embarrassment. The team’s pre-Games tour of Mediterranean tourist hotspots was every New Zealander’s holiday dream. You would think some of the fallout from all that would stick to the boss. But no, it appears David Lyles is going to carry the can for the failures of their “elite” swim program. Early last year a prominent Spanish swimming website suggested Villanueva’s past was a story of the good, the bad and the ugly. I remember an old New Zealand farmer telling me that if you ever wanted to decide whether to have someone as a friend imagine yourself lost in the bush on a cold wet night. Is this guy someone you’d want with you? For me Villanueva fails that test.



Layton, the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, is even more irrelevant than Alex Baumann. A puppet perhaps – hired to put into effect Miskimmin’s 21 point plan? He recently claimed the organization had “turned around” both on and off the water. That may be right; except it’s the wrong turn. The days when Cameron, Byrne and Coulter were in charge are looking positively halcyon compared to the current mess. How is it that someone who makes such great play of their communication skills can stay so bloody silent when his organization appears to be getting rid of its National Coach? My wish for Dr Layton in 2015 is that someone teaches him to tuck his shirt into his trousers. The sight of his ample puku at the National Swimming Championships is more than I can bear.