A Space Station Toilet

My last Swimwatch post attracted the attention of Dave Crampton. Dave runs the informative Facebook page NZSwim. As an introduction to reposting my Commonwealth Games’ story Dave had this to say:

“David Wright is someone who swimming people have advised I ignore. He’s too negative, some say.”

I will ignore those who think it best to ignore me. However the point about being too negative has merit. My defense is that there is not much at Swimming New Zealand to be positive about. It is hard to be enthusiastic about winning Olympic Championships when there haven’t been any. Swimming New Zealand spoilt the one recent world record by lying about the Wellington pool. It’s very hard to write up the merits of the National Coach. There has been so many of them it’s tough just to remember their names. Today’s Tuesday: it must be the American or the Australian or the Pom. No hold on, it’s the apprentice. Believe me, I’ve tried, but it is seriously difficult to treat the script of Monty Python’s Flying Circus as a potential winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

But more important than all that, I have an apology to make. You see Dave Crampton goes on in his NZSwim Facebook page to say this:

“Because sometimes he has some good things to say, his stats are accurate, and worth reading.”

Certainly I try hard to deal with established and accurate facts. They tend to be more useful than “fake news”. But in the Commonwealth Games’ story there is an important statistical error. In the first paragraph of that post I said this:

Four Games have come and gone and New Zealand has won just two gold medals. The New Zealand taxpayer has invested about $20 million in swimming in that period for just two wins. At $10million per gold medal those two medals must be among the most expensive even won anywhere, by anybody. Counting medals of any colour, New Zealand swimmers have won sixteen medals. That is still well over a million dollars per Commonwealth Game’s medal.

And that is not true. I’ve checked and since 2002 the New Zealand taxpayer has not invested $20million; nowhere near $20million. Since 2002 the taxpayer investment in Swimming New Zealand has in fact been $25,592,366. The table below details the annual figures each year from 2002 to 2016.

It might sound negative, and for that I apologize, but $25.5million for what? What has the Board of Swimming New Zealand delivered for $25.5million? Put it this way. Every person reading this post has probably paid tax of some sort – GST, petrol tax, income tax and the like. There are a dozen ways the government funds its income. What that means is that each of us has paid a portion of the $25.5million. And for what? Have we got value for our money? I don’t bloody think so.

2016 1,659,030
2015 2,189,533
2014 2,395,292
2013 2,389,813
2012 2,233,877
2011 1,962,838
2010 2,038,928
2009 1,979,010
2008 1,870,747
2007 1,970,068
2006 2,307,812
2005 1,222,411
2004 510,000
2003 456,777
2002 406,230
TOTAL 25,592,366

The internet tells me there are several interesting things Swimming New Zealand could have done with $25.5million; things that would have been just as much value as the ‘I’m-not-sure-what” the money has actually been spent on. For example they could have bought 24 Orca whales. That would have been an investment in swimming.

I’ll tell you what would have produced a sweeter result. With $25.5million Swimming New Zealand could have bought 5,862,068 boxes of Jaffas.

Given the appeal of the very good Millennium pool coffee shop Swimming New Zealand could have invested in 25,000 kilograms of the world’s most expensive coffee – made appropriately enough from the poo of an Asian palm civit. We’ve certainly ended up in the poo.

But the real investment that would have had value – that would have had a use. With $19million Swimming New Zealand could have bought the sport an international space station toilet. Consider the benefits. The sport would have a podium finish. There would be money left over to buy golden toilet paper. And an efficient means would be at hand to flush the government’s future funding away for as long as the current Board holds onto power.

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