It’s Obscene

I was discussing the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Annual General Meeting tonight with a friend – believe it or not I do have some, friends that is. We were talking about the SNZ decision to set aside $100,000 to pay New Zealand’s best privacy lawyer to fight me in a privacy case. My friend dismissed SNZ’s behaviour with a curt, “It’s obscene.”

What on earth did she mean? What was obscene? Well it is simple really. Two things.

First, here we have SNZ spending $100,000 paying two lawyers. This has nothing to do with swimming. This is a legal bill to sort out a problem that a phone call could have settled for free, four years ago. Even today it could be sorted out, not for free any longer, but for a lot less than this is going to end up costing. Another friend of mine – yes that’s at least two – was talking about the same subject this afternoon and offered the comment that sometimes a dispute goes past the point of being resolved between the parties. Sometimes a Court or Tribunal is needed. He is right. Sometimes that does happen. But not on this occasion.

SNZ has a new Chairman. Nick Tongue has replaced Bruce Cotterill. That is a step in the right direction. At least Tongue knows a bit about swimming. The bad is – he has been a member of the SNZ Board while they have been making some catastrophic decisions – like the one to spend $100,000 making a Christchurch lawyer rich.

But let’s give Nick the benefit of the doubt. He is a new broom. If ever a place needs a clean sweep, it’s SNZ. At least one item of the garbage needing removal is this privacy issue. Perhaps Nick is a better manager than his predecessor. Give me a call Nick. It would be nice to have a crack at sorting out your predecessor’s shambles.

But all that is not the obscene part. What is obscene is the SNZ AGM was held last weekend and the topic of the $100,000 being spent on lawyers was not even discussed. What on earth has to happen before the SNZ delegates act? Cotterill sets aside $100,000 to pay lawyers and the delegates at the AGM say nothing. Bloody unbelievable. Bloody obscene.

What on earth are the delegates at the AGM to do? If spending $100,000 on lawyers isn’t worth a mention, what would need to happen to get the delegates attention? Would blowing up the Millennium Pool count? Banning South Island teams from the National Championships? Perhaps someone would ask questions about that. Not the delegates from Auckland of course. It was their idea. But what would really upset these delegates is the decision to save money by stopping the AGM tea and savouries. Pay lawyers $100,000, no problem, but do not for any reason, meddle with our tea and sausage rolls. It’s obscene.

And the second obscenity surrounding the $100,000 is the announcement today of the qualifying criteria for three SNZ teams. Teams will be selected to attend the          Junior Pan Pacific Championships, the Oceania Championships and the LA Invitational. At the conclusion of the qualifying criteria is the following wonderful sentence.

“This is a user pays event which means that Swimmers are required to fund their own expenses.”

Can you imagine that? The SNZ Board and management think it is fine to spend $100,000 on lawyers and charge swimmers to represent the country. Three teams sharing $100,000 is $33,300 that could be allocated to each team. Seems like no choice to me. But to the SNZ Board the lawyers win every time. Sting the membership and pay lawyers to defend Cotterill’s ego. Of course that’s a good idea.

Put another way – the three meets are taking place in Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Fiji. The cost of a trip to Los Angeles and back is $1500, to Hawaii $1200 and Fiji $1000. Divide the average of $1233 into $100,000 and 81 swimmer’s airfares should be fully funded for the money SNZ has decided to send to a lawyer in Christchurch. That’s the priorities your Board has in life. That’s what your Board think is important. As my friend would say – IT’S OBSCENE.   

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