The previous Swimwatch post considered a most serious question members should be asking at the Annual General Meeting. For those who own or manage a swim school, the questions are more than serious. Why would members possibly approve Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) involving itself in commercial pool management and learn to swim when its invasion of competitive coaching was such a disaster? There are some activities private enterprise does better. Managing pools, learn to swim and competitive coaching are three of those.

And if the answer of SNZ is we need registered uniformity, that’s what SNZ said about competitive swimming and look where that got us. Our variety, our capitalism, our diverse competition is our strength. Why on earth do SNZ want to be the socialist boss of everything? Because that is where the money is.

Why would SNZ possibly want to involve itself in pool management and learn to swim when its invasion of competitive coaching was such a disaster? Isn’t the fact that over 25 years SNZ wasted $26 million on competitive coaching enough? How much is this next little excursion into private enterprise going to cost the NZ taxpayer before it too gets ditched in chaos.

But we know why SNZ want to take over a swim school near you. They need the money. And they see invading and regulating private enterprise activities such as pool management and learn to swim as a perfect place to make money. As well as money from each swim school they will fleece Water Safety New Zealand for additional funds. Already SNZ could not survive without Water Safety New Zealand’s $600,000 donation.

For 25 years competitive coaching provided SNZ with a huge income (about a million dollars a year) from High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ). SNZ built an empire that reflected that income. Competitive failure after competitive failure followed until a year ago the whole programme was dropped. Broken and dispirited competitive coaching returned to private enterprise for repair.

But there was a problem. SNZ still has the empire it built on HPSNZ’s money but no income to pay for it. The answer? Find some new business to make a dollar. What about pool management and learn to swim? SNZ’s constitution does not allow that but slip it through the AGM and SNZ have 25 years of bleeding another swimming sector dry.

What SNZ should be doing is reducing the size and cost of the empire – not profit stripping someone else’s business. They should be lowering costs not increasing income by stealing money from others who do a good job already.

So how do we know money is SNZ’s motive? Well, the accounts reveal all and are the basis of two further questions that should be asked at the AGM.

Question Two

The SNZ Board is a simple group to understand – not complicated at all. They quickly realised that income from HPSNZ was drying up. Why? Because HPSNZ had been telling them for five years that there was no more money if results stayed as they were. HPSNZ are not good at rewarding failure. As HPSNZ’s income went down SNZ realised their accounts were looking increasingly fragile. Money earned by the business was only paying for about 35% of the organisation’s costs. The other 65% was being paid for by charity handouts. It would only take one or two of those charities to pull the plug on their donation and no more SNZ. The answer the Board came up with was find something else that could earn a dollar. What about swimming pools and learn to swim, they said.

How do we know? We know because the only two growth incomes in SNZ financial report this year have come from revenue related to swimming pools and learn to swim. For example, Water Safety NZ’s income has increased by $k324 or 117% (from $k277 to $k602). Programme fees have increased by $k310 or 343% (from $k91 to $k401). These days that is where the SNZ Board is spending its time.  

And if these two motions are anything to go by, the effort being put into swimming pools and learn to swim is going to get worse. Right now, that’s the goose that’s laying the golden eggs. The core business is doing nothing. Membership is down again from 18,730 in 2018 to 17,255 in 2019, 17,084 in 20210 and 16,322 in 2021. Membership fees increased because SNZ increased their prices. The amount was a paltry $k31 or 11% (from $k262 to $k293). Not much point in working like mad for $31,000 when you can steal someone else’s business and make ten times that amount.

And so, the question I would ask is what, apart from getting involved in pool management and learn to swim is SNZ going to do about improving the income derived from their core business. Because right now that looks pretty rubbish.

Someone might also like to find out why when inflation was less than 2% SNZ managed to increase its charges to the membership by 11%. Were we screwed do you think?

 Question Three

The other side of improving a set of accounts is to reduce costs. Are there any signs SNZ has made any effort in that direction? After all they have known for years HPSNZ’s income was a lost cause. HPSNZ was more interested in their new toys at Cambridge and Karapiro.

I imagine you know the answer to the costs question. And you are right. Here is the list:

  • Accountancy Fees No change
  • Administration Up $13,000 (make sure wages go up)
  • Audit Fees Up $650
  • Consultation/Communication/Marketing Up $5,000,
  • Depreciation/Amortisation Up $9000
  • Events Up $224,000
  • Education Up $368,000 (the biggest increase is in SNZ’s new area of interest)
  • Governance Up $13,000 (that’s the Board expenses up by 31%)
  • High Performance Athlete / Coach Support Up $44,000
  • High Performance Programmes / Other Up $44,000
  • Legal Expenses Up $2,000
  • Motor Vehicle Lease Up $2000 (cars and bigger cars)
  • Rent Expense Up $9000 (15% in a rent freeze what’s that about, barns and bigger barns)
  • Rewards Incentive Scheme Up $18,000

So those cost items have increased this year by three quarters of a million dollars, suggesting that cost savings have not been a Board priority.


So there we have it. The membership knows SNZ turned over competitive swimming to the clubs (a good thing) but only after SNZ spent 25 years stuffing it up.

But are they replacing that folly with an equally dangerous excursion into the worlds of swimming pool management and learn to swim? Because, it seems, that is the story being told in these accounts.

A very good South Island friend of mine said to me, just before lockdown, “David you are giving SNZ too much credit on Swimwatch. You wait and see. They have given up on competitive swimming but like a starving rattle snake they will be after something else that right now belongs to someone else.”

I said, “No I think you are wrong. SNZ has seen the private enterprise light. Once bitten twice shy.”

Please tell me my mate is wrong. Otherwise, I have no idea how to reply to the email that says, “I told you so.”

Other Sundry Questions

  1. Creditors have gone up by a huge 474% to $179,298. Who does SNZ owe $179,298 to and has it been paid?
  2. Employee entitlements have gone up by 67% to $149,989. Does SNZ Have a holiday pay problem and has the amount been reduced?
  3. Cash has gone up by a huge 118% to more than the company is worth $578,674. Is that related to the high creditors and what is the cash amount now?
  4. Are the Board happy that after more than 100 years of trading SNZ is worth $50,000 less than one year’s donation from Water Safety NZ? Is that their idea of a healthy financial position?

And Finally

Remember the Moller Report? It is the basis for SNZ’s current structure and operation. It is the ultimate irony that the one Moller Report recommendation SNZ rejected was – do not get involved in learn to swim. Now SNZ is not only involved, it is planning to buy a swim school. Without learn to swim SNZ would not exist. It seems Moller was right.     

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