Swimming New Zealand Annual Report – Fact or Fiction

Measuring the financial health of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is not easy. It is not a “normal” business. Ratios such as Return on Equity and the like, that apply in the real world, have little relevance in SNZ. And so for the purposes of this report, let’s invent our own measures. Let’s see how well the numbers say Johns and Cotterill did their job in 2018.

Welfare Dependency

Unlike a normal business SNZ is hugely dependent on government and charity handouts. The organisation is a welfare beneficiary. As SNZ has recently discovered, that is a vulnerable position to be in. When someone at HPSNZ decides swimming is not towing the line, the money disappears. Two or three charities catch a mild cold and SNZ is in hospital with the flu. In terms of risk, SNZ’s dependence on welfare is critically important. Personally I would prefer to be poor, independent and safe. But that is not the path SNZ has chosen.

So how dependent has SNZ been on handouts over the past ten years? The table below shows the numbers including the percentage of the business that is dependent on welfare.

Year Total Income Grants & Donations G&D % of Income
2009 3,606,555 2,586,135 72
2010 3,785,238 2,696,127 71
2011 4,158,493 3,253,336 78
2012 4,336,935 3,402,843 78
2013 4,343,696 3,406,118 78
2014 4,653,269 3,663,687 79
2015 3,808,704 2,850,069 75
2016 3,854,559 2,476,306 64
2017 3,546,861 2,208,972 62
2018 3,154,053 1,961,814 62
Average over 10 years 3,924,836 2,850,540 72

So, what does this say? It tells us that through most of the past ten years about three quarters of SNZ’s income has come from handouts. The business of swimming has only generated about one quarter of the organisation’s income. That is extremely vulnerable and dangerous.

However, there is a silver lining. While Cotterill and Johns have been weeping crocodile tears over the reduction in government funding the effect on the organisation has been to decrease its reliance on welfare from 75% to 62%. That is still far too high but it is a move in the right direction. And so the tough love has been good. Antares Place is much less dependent on Miskimmin. Long may it last. Two things are important. Johns and Cotterill cannot be allowed to drag swimming back to 75% dependency. The financial performance of both should include the goal of seeing the handout portion of SNZ’s income reduce further, to below 50%. In other words SNZ should be able to stand on its own two financial feet.


For about 12 years SNZ Annual Reports have included a table that compares membership numbers over the previous four years. All of a sudden in 2018 the table disappeared. That made me suspicious. What was Johns trying to hide? In my opinion he has a tendency to hide or ignore bad news. Was the disappearance of these figures a case of Johns providing us with fake news?

The table below shows the membership of SNZ over the past ten years.

Year Members
2009 19,847
2010 22,202
2011 25,467
2012 21,879
2013 18,200
2014 17,350
2015 18,029
2016 19,028
2017 19,118
2018 18,730
Average over 10 years 19,985 

As you can see, membership in 2018 dropped to 18,730. Was this the fact Johns was trying to hide? Did he not want us to know that we now have 300 fewer members than when Johns joined SNZ? Is he trying to hide the fact that swimming in 2018 has 6,737 fewer members than it did seven years ago? Or is Johns ashamed that the average SNZ membership number for ten years is 19,985 and today it is 1,255 less than that? On average, since 2011, we have lost members at a rate of close to 1000 a year. At this rate by the year 2036 Johns will be able to turn off the lights. He will be the only one left.


In the case of SNZ, income is a very poor indicator of performance. The amount of income is dominated by three factors – government welfare, membership numbers and the amount SNZ charges members for services.

We have already discussed the decline in government welfare. That is down. We have also discussed the fall in membership. That is also down. So that only leaves the amount SNZ charge the members for entry fees, membership levies and user-pays to compensate for the erosion in other areas. Is that what has happened? The table below shows SNZ total income for the ten years since 2009.

Year Total Income
2009 3,606,555
2010 3,785,238
2011 4,158,493
2012 4,336,935
2013 4,343,696
2014 4,653,269
2015 3,808,704
2016 3,854,559
2017 3,546,861
2018 3,154,053
Average over 10 years 3,924,836

As you would expect the increase in charges has not been enough to compensate for the falling membership and the drop in government handouts. Income has fallen from $4.6 million in 2014 to $3.1 million in 2018. That’s a fall of $1.5 million (33%) in five years; an average of $300,000 each year. That is catastrophically huge. What makes it worse is my guess that the pay of three staff members (Johns, Francis and Carroll) on their own account for in excess of 12% of SNZ total income. In effect 12 cents out of every dollar we pay to SNZ goes straight into the pocket of three employees. The same figure for the Warehouse is less than 1%. That SNZ remuneration ratio is way out of line. I suspect we are not getting value for our money.


Profit in SNZ is of doubtful relevance. HPSNZ has total control over how much profit SNZ is able to make. I have no doubt that if SNZ began to accumulate reserves that HPSNZ thought were more than they liked, the government’s supply of money would be turned off very quickly. In addition to that SNZ profits have taken a hit in each Olympic year. You can see this in the profit table below where large losses were made in 2012 and 2016. Those losses are symptomatic of the pathetically amateur way SNZ runs their swimming business. Millions are poured into a dozen swimmers for six months around an Olympic Games. Then for three and a half years nothing happens until it is time for the next burst of spending. It really is pathetic. The numbers do not lie. Set out below is a table of SNZ’s profits over the past ten years.

Year Total Surplus
2009 270,693
2010 89,271
2011 34,227
2012 (120,213)
2013 16,234
2014 18,021
2015 109,713
2016 (63,923)
2017 29,115
2018 58,853
Average over 10 years 44,199
Average Non-Olympic Years 62,213

SNZ’s profit in 2018 is a good result; especially after taking into account the drop in income. Cotterill was honest enough to admit, in his Annual Report, that a grant of $199,756 from the Warehouse saved SNZ’s profit bacon. SNZ’s profit in 2018 deserves a pass mark – probably only a C+ but a pass never-the-less.


Well, look at this. The accounts tell us that Swimming New Zealand is now worth the grand sum of $448,613. That is still a pretty pathetic and dangerously low number. There is not much there in the way of reserves. Swimming Canterbury on its own is worth almost as much ($373,012). However it is to SNZ’s credit that the figure is the highest it has been for over ten years. It does look as though we have saved the best till last. Here are the numbers.

Year Total Equity
2009 277,315
2010 366,586
2011 400,813
2012 280,600
2013 314,855
2014 296,834
2015 424,568
2016 360,645
2017 389,760
2018 448,613
Average over 10 years 356,059





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