Three previous Swimwatch posts have discussed questions that should be raised at the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) AGM. I do hope the membership does not ignore the change SNZ is about to make. Just as swimming now regrets the wasted generations of our best swimmers, the wasted $26 million and the wasted 25 years of the centralised training era, the sport’s current AGM delegates do not want to be responsible for undermining learn to swim for two generations of young New Zealanders. If you pass Motions 5 and 6 that stain will be your legacy.

While we are on the subject of constitutional matters, there is one further issue that needs to be discussed. I have little doubt that most New Zealanders would classify the elections imposed by China on Hong Kong as undemocratic. For a city of 7.5 million people to have its government elected by only 5000 people, carefully selected by China, is not our idea of democracy. But that is what is happening in Hong Kong right now.

I can imagine the CEO of Sport New Zealand, Raylene Castle, sitting with her mates, drinking their morning Wholefoods coffee, and thanking some deity that we are so much better than the President of China, Xi Jinping, and his 5000 selected electors.

But is she any better? Perhaps the title of this post is close to the truth. Perhaps Ms. Castle has closer ties to Comrades Putin and Xi than she thinks. Just consider the way the SNZ Board is selected.

The first thing you need to know is all the power for selecting the SNZ Board is in the hands of an Appointments Panel. This is Comrade Castles 5000 Hong Kong electors. Except in the case of SNZ, Comrade Castle has cut the number of her Appointments Panel voters from 5000 to 5.

Of the 5 voters on Comrade Castle’s Appointments Panel, 3 are chosen by Sport New Zealand, that’s Comrade Castle again, and two are voted for by the Regions from a list pre-approved by Comrade Castle.

Comrade Castle’s Appointment’s Panel, that is the 5 voters, then decide who is going to be on the Swimming New Zealand Board of 6 people. They do this in two ways.

  1. Comrade Castle’s 5 Appointments Panel voters simply appoint 3 names given to them by Comrade Castle. They become 3 of the 6 people on the SNZ Board.
  2. Comrade Castle’s 5 Appointments Board voters also put forward a maximum of another 3 names – but never more than 3 or never more than the number required to make up 3 on the Board – for the Regions to approve at the AGM.

In effect then Comrade Castle selects or approves her panel of 5 voters and her 5 voters select or approve the 6 Board members. Now I must ask, how is that different from what Putin does in Russia or Xi does in Hong Kong? If anything, Comrade Castle and SNZ are worse.

Just imagine if Jacinda tried to run New Zealand’s next election the way Comrade Castle does things in SNZ or Xi runs elections in Hong Kong. Jacinda would select a voter’s panel of 144 Labour supporters. The 144 would then select 60 MPs who would automatically become members of Parliament for the next three years. Jacinda’s panel of 144 Labour supporters would then put forward to the people of New Zealand another 60 approved names – and never more than 60 – to be voted on for the remaining 60 MP seats.

No one would put up with that rubbish. And yet for some reason the membership of SNZ for the last decade have said, “Oh, that’s fine. Whatever you say Comrade.”      

There is little question that the absence of democracy at SNZ is going to have to be sorted out at some stage. SNZ’s appointed Board members should be ashamed of the corruption that put them there.


Before fighting that battle. Before the membership worry about SNZ’s anti-democratic constitution. Before tackling the authoritarian nature of our dear leaders, please deal with SNZ’s attempted takeover of New Zealand’s learn to swim. That is serious. It is immediate and the learn to swim of your pre-teens is depending on you.  

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