On far too many occasions the Wellington swimming administrator Mark Berge has been the subject of comment in this blog. We have asked questions about management actions involving swimming in Wellington. Most recently we have questioned the ethics of his long term membership on the Swimming Wellington Board.

With this history it will surprise no one to learn that, in my opinion, I do not have much time for Mark Berge or his influence on swimming in New Zealand. In fact I disagree with just about everything I’ve heard he supports. And of course I have no doubt he disagrees with equal passion with the views expressed in Swimwatch. That is of no personal concern. In fact I would be far more concerned if Mark Berge agreed with me.

My previous Swimwatch post discussed aspects of the decision of Gabrielle Fa’amausili to accept a swimming scholarship at the University of Georgia. We were prompted to write the post as a result of comments about the scholarship that appeared on the Facebook page called NZSwim. Of course I do not always agree with everything posted on the NZSwim page. That is not to say I think the page is bad for swimming or should be closed down. On the contrary the presence of NZSwim is healthy and good for the sport. Open discussion and sharing of views is something that should be encouraged. The last thing good for any society is the suppression of discussion even when the views expressed question the action of those in power: especially when the views expressed question the action of those in power. Good administrators encourage dissent. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is more than a well-known phrase. It is essential to good governance. And in swimming NZSwim has an important role in providing that service.

So how, you may be asking, is Mark Berge and the publication of NZSwim related. Well, from what I have heard Mark Berge does not approve of NZSwim one little bit. If that is true, I have absolutely no idea why he would object to the publication. The NZSwim page has a lot of good information. I’ve not seen anything published that would encourage Wellington swimmers to riot along Lambton Quay. From as far away as I am it appears Mark Berge may have a Donald Trump like aversion to a free and functioning press.

While that might be bad and sad the opinions of Mark Berge do not really matter as long as he is unable to prevent the voice of NZSwim or Swimwatch or any one else being heard. But is that exactly what he might be trying to do?

Because I have been told that Mark Berge is contacting the Wellington swimming community with the story that the journalist who writes for NZSwim has been “banned from Swimming NZ meets.” The NZSwim journalist attended and reported on the recent New Zealand Short Course Championships. And so if Berge is spreading that story it seems unlikely to be true. I have also heard that the journalist’s wife has been contacted by Berge with the banning story.

Those are the accusations. They may or may not be true. But they should certainly be investigated by New Zealand Swimming and Wellington Swimming. The truth needs to be established. No one should be allowed to threaten a journalist’s right to make a living.                      Stand-over tactics and lies have no place in the sport. If the accusations are true the behaviour is bullying and harassment and cannot be tolerated.

Even before these alleged events it was my opinion that Mark Berge had passed his sell-by date. The sport now needs to establish the veracity of these new accusations. Because if Mark Berge has been involved, as told to me, the sell-by date has not only expired the product needs to be discarded.




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