Solicitor General Review of Cycling NZ

Former Solicitor General Michael Heron has been appointed to lead a review into actions of both HPSNZ and Cycling NZ (CNZ) after the departure of head sprint coach Anthony Peden. Being a retired Solicitor General I’m sure Heron’s IQ is going to be equal to the task. I just hope he has enough perspicacity to identify a common factor that links the problems in these sports organizations.

You see the difficulty is that because Heron’s terms of reference are to look at internal troubles in CNZ he will miss the actual cause of the sport’s current problems. Why? Because the cause is not inside cycling. The cause is in the environment and the policy that established the sport in Cambridge. This is not about Peden. This is about the toxic environment and policy imposed on the sport by an obsessed Peter Miskimmin at Sport NZ. And how do I know that is true?

Because since Miskimmin began his drive to centralise the administration and operations of New Zealand sports, disruption, chaos and reviews have characterised them all. The common factor is Miskimmin’s policy.

It began with swimming. Miskimmin ordered three expensive reviews; all in very similar circumstances to this latest cycling version. The Sweetenham Review was first followed by the Ineson Review and most recently the Moller Review. Millions were spent getting the conclusion Miskimmin wanted. When the first two did not produce a result that pleased Miskimmin he ordered another review until Moller finally delivered the “right” answers. Miskimmin’s centralised policy was locked in place. And we have seen the result. New Zealand swimming could not beat a well-worn carpet. Membership numbers have collapsed, income is fading and international results are terrible. All those reviews and the sport has no direction or purpose. Miskimmin has reviewed it into oblivion.

Rowing, canoeing and cycling have all had their reviews. They are also all centralised sports. If Michael Heron misses that link he will miss the fundamental cause of the dysfunction that haunts sports forced into Miskimmin’s centralised model.

Miskimmin has been very good at shifting attention away from his policy and onto those charged with making the impossible possible. When the Moller Review was in full swing, I went to Wellington to present a paper on why centralised training would not work. During the course of my discussion with Moller he made it very clear that debating the validity of Miskimmin’s centralised policy was not to be discussed. Debating what SNZ needed to change in order to make the policy work was fine. The legitimacy of the policy however was out of bounds. As a result the fundamental cause of the malaise that infects swimming has never been addressed. Miskimmin won’t allow it to be addressed.

And exactly the same controls and restrictions are going to blight the Heron Cycling Review.       Under the terms of reference for the review Heron will investigate the allegations of inappropriate behavior in the CNZ high performance program and assess whether the national body’s response was “adequate and appropriate”. The review will also “identify, in detail, the information received and steps taken by HPSNZ” in the debrief of the 2016 Olympic campaign, and whether a breach in confidentiality occurred. Any information obtained about employees or contractors of HPSNZ which “may give rise to further action” will be referred back to chief executive Michael Scott.

You can see from that description Miskimmin’s dark hand at work. It is all about what went on in CNZ and HPSNZ that screwed up his “perfect” policy of centralisation. Who is to blame for mismanaging Miskimmin’s baby? No one is even looking at whether the baby’s parents should have accepted our offer of free contraception. Heron would do New Zealand sport a huge favour by discussing a subject Moller dodged. Because the legitimacy of the Miskimmin policy of centralisation is where the problems in these sports begin.

And so sadly I would argue that the CNZ Review will be no more successful than the three swimming versions. Good people will wander around looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. Already the Chairman of CNZ is beginning to sound like a succession of SNZ Chairmen. Someone called Tony Mitchell is bravely reported to be saying, “The only way forward is to join together with HPSNZ on this review, so we can clear the air, move forward, and resume, hopefully, a better improved programme.” Mitchell confirmed chief executive Andrew Matheson has been on sick leave since last Friday as the organisation deals with the unprecedented crisis.

I recall three SNZ Chairmen mouthing the same platitudes. And look what happened here – nothing. Of course nothing happens when everyone is so petrified of losing Miskimmin’s money they would fare rather play “The Emperor has no clothes” than tell the truth. For as long as that happens Miskimmin will continue to walk around naked with cycling and swimming following at an embarrassingly close distance. I suspect the most valuable person in all this, the person who contributes the most is the person who will pay most dearly – Anthony Peden. Why? Because it’s Peden the Emperor has chosen to blame.

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