Miskimmin’s Dictatorship

The first Swimwatch submission to Sport NZ made the point that the toxic culture of sport in New Zealand had its origin at the top. Sport NZ was and is responsible for New Zealand’s sporting environment. Miskimmin’s policies have encouraged and do not punish appalling behaviour. The Swimwatch submission gave examples of the corruption that has followed: Olympic champions being tragically undervalued while bureaucrats take home multi-hundreds of thousands of dollars; executives flying for free while athletes stand at sausage sizzles and rely on “Give-a-Little” donations to raise the money to get themselves to a World Championship; and basic rules of justice being ignored.

We argued that corruption was the product of Miskimmin’s dictatorship. We said power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We recommended that Miskimmin should be sacked and the cleansing power of democracy should be brought back into the management of sport.

What the Swimwatch post did not do was justify the claim that sport in New Zealand was a Miskimmin dictatorship. We did not prove that Miskimmin has done more than use the Government’s money to inflict dictatorial control. He has imposed structural decrees that consolidate and centralise his power. Make no mistake, power in New Zealand sport is as centralised and as dictatorial as it ever was in Castro’s Cuba or Papa Doc’s Haiti.

Can we prove that? How has he done it? Let’s use Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) as an example. Some of this constitutional stuff is quite boring but it is critical to understanding the noxious culture of sport in New Zealand.

In 2011, against our advice, Brian Palmer and Bronwyn Radford reached an agreement with Peter Miskimmin that Sport NZ could write a new SNZ constitution. Effectively that decision sold swimming down the drain. A generation of swimmers have paid a terrible price for that decision. The harm is being felt as acutely today as it was seven years ago.

In 2012 a SNZ Special General Meeting approved the new Constitution. Miskimmin’s grab for power was complete. So, what is in the new Constitution that turned SNZ from a democratic organisation into a centralised dictatorship? This is the tedious constitutional stuff but it is critical to understanding why swimming has struggled to find international champions, why its membership drops every year and why it has been stripped of government funding.

The answers can be found in Section Four of the SNZ Constitution, titled “Governance”. Section Four sets out how those who run SNZ are selected. It answers the question of who will be in power. Who controls SNZ?

Section Four vests control for the day-to-day operation of SNZ in the Board. But the Board is controlled by a higher authority called the Appointments Panel. Ultimate power in SNZ lies in the Appointments Panel. The Panel of five members can decide who should be appointed to the Board, who can stand for election to the Board and how long Board members can remain on the Board. This relationship is vital to understanding how Miskimmin’s dictatorship works. Whoever controls the Appointments Panel controls SNZ. Here is how it works.

The five members of the Appointments Panel are selected as follows.

1.    Two appointed members, one of whom will be the Chairman, are selected by Sport NZ – that’s Peter Miskimmin.

2.    One member is then chosen by the two appointed members. That effectively means Miskimmin has chosen a third member. His three minions now control the Appointments Panel.

3.    Two members are elected by the Regions but only after their names have been approved by the three appointed members of the Panel. In other words the election is rigged so that Miskimmin can control who can stand for election and therefore who can be elected.

As you can see Miskimmin choses two. Those two chose a third. Then the three approve the names of anyone standing for election by the SNZ Regions. That means Peter Miskimmin controls who is on the Appointments Panel. His mates are guaranteed a place.

So how does that control affect the day-to-day Board of SNZ? Here is how that works. The Board has six members. Here is how the six are selected.

1.    Three are members appointed by the Appointments Panel. So Miskimmin’s mates get to name three of the six Board members.

2.    The other three are elected by the Regions. But in case you thought that might be democratic there are rules that govern the election. Only three candidates can stand in the election. Every candidate has to have their name approved by the Appointments Panel – as we have seen that means Peter Miskimmin.

It is impossible to imagine a more undemocratic process. Miskimmin controls the Appointments Panel. The Appointments Panel controls membership of the Board. All that means is Miskimmin controls the Board. The title of this post, “Miskimmin’s Dictatorship” is entirely justified. Earlier in this submission I compared Miskimmin’s control to Cuba and Haiti. I suspect Castro and Papa Doc would have the utmost admiration for Miskimmin’s model. Miskimmin has devised a third world dictatorship plan and imposed it on SNZ. It is truly disgusting.

For six years this dictatorship has controlled SNZ. In that time the sport has lost a host of members, has not won a medal at an Olympic Games and is a leaderless shambles. The dictatorship model has not worked, will not work and has caused endless pain. Band aids like new coaches, the appointment of Gary Francis and the sacking of Hurring and Bouzaid have been tried. But anything the management do will fail because of the fundamental corruption of Miskimmin’s dictatorial structure.

It is the ultimate irony that, for six years Miskimmin has had total control over SNZ. And yet in that six years SNZ has piled failure upon failure. By almost every measure SNZ has performed poorly and even illegally. They have lied and cheated at almost every turn. And what does Miskimmin do. He strips the sport of funding. Can you imagine that – Miskimmin controls the sport but strips it of money when it under-performs. No thought is given to the fact that the blame for the six years of failure lies with him. No thought of punishing himself.

Oh no, for Miskimmin it’s all about taking all the power and none of the responsibility. The cancer of corruption at the head has spread and infected the entire body.

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