Wairarapa First

One of the key recommendations of the Moller Report promoted the worth of amalgamation. Moller saw all sorts of value in Northland and Counties/Manukau being absorbed into Auckland, of Waikato and Bay of Plenty jumping into bed with each other. Manawatu was supposed to go somewhere else. I’ve long forgotten the details. But clearly Moller had the Super Rugby model in mind where four or five regions covered the entire country. The concept was based on Swimming New Zealand’s (SNZ) accepted policy of centralisation. High performance was centralised under a SNZ dictatorship and was doing so well – that’s a joke by the way – so why not subject the entire sport to the same centralised policy.

I went to Wellington during the Moller investigation and spoke to him for about three hours against the centralisation of elite swimming and of swimming in general. My views were rejected. Centralisation of elite swimming continued for another six years and Moller recommended the rest of swimming follow that shining example – that’s another joke.

In the end the only real change in swimming was the decision of Wairarapa and Wanganui to become part of Wellington. That’s five or six years ago now; time to determine whether this centralisation thing works. Has swimming in the Wairarapa bounded forward from success to success as a result of the amalgamation and as was promised by Moller and Sam Rossiter-Stead.

It will come as no surprise to hear that my views on centralisation have not changed. I can see no benefit of the policy in elite swimming. Even SNZ has had to creep away, with their tails between their legs, admitting the policy has failed. Gary Francis has been appointed in an effort to introduce some decentralised democracy. That hasn’t worked yet. But the good thing, so far, is that SNZ has had to admit they were wrong. They have wasted $30million and two generations of New Zealand’s best swimmers in the process. But finally they had to face the reality of their failure and pretend to do something different. It has been a total defeat; an unqualified rout.

But what about the rest of swimming? What does the amalgamation of Wairarapa into Wellington teach the rest of New Zealand about centralisation?

SNZ cling desperately to the remnants of power. For them amalgamation into a centralised structure has bountiful advantages. Best of all a centralised structure keeps decision making firmly at the top of the hierarchy; among the small authoritarian clique of Cotterill, Johns and Francis. They see it as easier to impose standard policies for the whole business, as preventing parts of New Zealand swimming following regional plans and as making it easier to control the amount and use of the region’s money. SNZ has no regard at all for the lack of authority in the smaller regions reducing motivation and enthusiasm and the fact that local members miss out on the speed and flexibility of local decision making.

During my meeting with Moller I argued against centralisation. Six years later I still feel that the amalgamation of Wairarapa into the Wellington region was not in the best interests of Wairarapa members. The points I made to Moller are summarised in the table below and remain valid today.

·         Because decisions are closer to the region the decisions made are better and more relevant. ie there is better customer service.

·         Administrators are better able to respond to local conditions and have more knowledge of regional circumstances.

·         Local administrators have more motivation to do a good job for their local region.

·         Local administrators have a better opportunity to train and motivate new administrators.

·         Administration of the regions finances is held and protected where the money was earned and where it should be spent.

Those are the points I argued with Moller. But has the reality turned out that way. I believe so. From my observation the amalgamation has done nothing for swimming in the Wairarapa. For example, since the handover, there has been no, specifically Wairarapa, financial accounts. Members in the region have no idea how much money they put into the Wellington bank account and how much they get back. Are they being ripped off by Wellington or is the larger area subsidising the Wairarapa? No one knows. My guess is that Wellington central is taking far more out of swimming in Carterton and Masterton than is ever being put back in.

For example no Wairarapa prize giving awards have taken place since the amalgamation. Seventy years of history obliterated in a moment. What was wrong with displaying a bit of local pride; of recognising the best swimmers in the area? Clearly Mark Berge and his mates thought it was an unnecessary distraction to their objective of building a kingdom. Certainly Wairarapa recognition has become a thing of the past. And that is a wretched disgrace.

The last Swimwatch post gave credit to the manner in which the Wellington Region had handled problems at the Masterton Swimming Club. The only criticism I have heard is the length of time it took Wellington to get off their behinds and do something. Local Wairarapa administration could well have reacted with more speed and avoided the worst of the fallout. Certainly Wairarapa people dealing with Wairarapa problems has many advantages.

I have long been a fan of swimming in the Wairarapa. The work that Coach Russell has done at the Carterton Club is an example to us all. I’ve not spoken to him about this subject but I doubt that he has benefitted at all from Mark Berge rule. But, hang in there Russell. I hear that all is not lost. Perhaps there is a lawyer in Wellington right now looking into whether the whole amalgamation thing was even remotely constitutional or legal. Good luck with that.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.