Archive for the ‘ New Zealand ’ Category

Progress Report: New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

My last post highlighted the safety issues involved in using the Hamilton Pool for the 2017 New Zealand Secondary School Swimming Championships. At 1.15m the pool is too shallow to safely allow starting block dive starts.

So what have I done to have this problem addressed?

Well, first of all, I have not contacted Swimming New Zealand. “Why not?” I hear you ask. “Swimming New Zealand is organizing the meet. Surely they should be approached first.” Please remember that this is the third time I have complained about the decision of Swimming New Zealand to use a shallow pool. On the three previous occasions I have paid a protest fee of $50 to Swimming New Zealand. Three times my concern has been rejected and Swimming New Zealand has kept my $50. And on the last occasion the Chairman used the organization’s Annual Report to say that, because of the protest, I was a person with no credibility. And so I am sure you will understand that having spent $150 already and having had my character insulted I am reluctant to go back for more. However if any reader has a spare $100 – the fee has gone up since I last filed a protest – I’m happy to try Swimming New Zealand again.

In the meantime I thought I’d look to other bodies that might have more interest in the health and safety of New Zealand secondary school swimmers. Is anyone in New Zealand interested in the fact that the Hamilton Pool does not meet Swimming New Zealand or FINA depth standards?

And so I prepared an email. This is what it said:

“Good Morning

On September 15 the New Zealand Secondary Schools Swimming Championships are due to be held at the Te Rapa Waterworld Pool in Hamilton.

Before schools enter students in this event they should be aware that the pool does not comply with minimum safety standards. Swimming New Zealand and the world governing body of swimming, FINA, both publish policy documents regarding the depth of pools where swimmers are diving from starting blocks.

The depth of the Hamilton Pool is 1.15m and that is well short of the minimum depth required by both the Swimming New Zealand and FINA rules. If the competition is held at the Te Rapa Waterworld Pool swimmers taking part will be required to dive into a pool classified as unsafe by the New Zealand and world governing bodies for swimming.

It is important schools are aware of this problem before entering the event. Diving into a shallow pool that does not comply with safety standards can cause serious injury or death. It is a serious health and safety issue that should not be ignored or allowed to pass by default. The attached Swimwatch blog article provides further clarification.

The  Swimming New Zealand minimum depth rules can be found here.

The FINA, world governing body, rules can be found here.

Rule FR 2.3


David Wright

Swimwatch Contributor“

And I have sent the email to the following organisations and individuals.

  1. The New Zealand Education Department
  2. The New Zealand Post Primary Teachers Association
  3. Worksafe New Zealand
  4. Hamilton City Council
  5. The New Secondary Schools Sports Council
  6. Hamilton Councillors: Paula Southgate, Mark Bunting, Dave Macpherson, James Casson, Andrew King, Martin Gallagher, Garry Mallett, Rob Pascoe, Philip Yeung, Angela Oleary, Geoff Taylor and Leo Tooman
  7. Recreation New Zealand
  8. Watersafety New Zealand

I have only had one reply. The New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council emailed to thank me and say they were contacting Swimming New Zealand. I do hope they have more luck than me. They need to be careful though. Asking questions about the depth of a Swimming New Zealand pool could earn them an insult in next year’s Annual Report.

I am sure you will agree that just about everybody with an interest in water-safety now knows the Hamilton Pool is too shallow. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone takes pool safety seriously. I will let you know.      


Hamilton Expediency or Principle?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

In 1995 the New Zealand National Championships were held in Hamilton at the Te Rapa Pool. I was concerned about the location. At the time I was coaching New Zealand’s two fastest sprinters, Toni Jeffs and Nichola Chellingworth. Both swimmers were favourites to qualify for the Atlanta Pan Pacific Games team. Swimming New Zealand rules required the qualifying time to be swum in the Championship final. My concern was that the Te Rapa pool was so shallow (1.1m) that Toni and Nichola would have to seriously alter their start to a much slower shallow dive. Asking them to qualify in that pool was like asking a track sprinter to qualify running uphill along a muddy path.

I decided to protest the pool depth and ask for recent times done in deep pools to be accepted as qualifying swims. Within an hour my protest and request were both rejected by Swimming New Zealand. The injustice was distressing. I contacted my lawyer in Wellington. He suggested that we prepare a Court injunction ordering the Championships be stopped until a fair trial’s venue was found. I agreed. Papers were prepared and a court appointment on the afternoon before the beginning of the Nationals was arranged. I called Swimming New Zealand and explained that we had decided that a court should test the fairness of their decision. I told them my lawyer had advised that our injunction was likely to be successful. Two hours later I received a call from Swimming New Zealand. A very grumpy Board member told me that because of the pool depth issue, qualifying swims prior to the Championships would be eligible for Pan Pacific Games’ team selection.

Toni ended up not swimming in the Championship trials. On our way to the pool on the first morning of heats we were involved in a serious car accident. Toni was in Waikato Hospital with a cracked vertebra. Nichola missed the qualifying time in the 50m Championship final. However her swim two weeks before in winning the Australia Age Group title was fast enough and she was selected for the Pan Pacific team. Her speed plus the threat of the injunction had worked.

Now let’s wind forward 22 years to 2017. Swimming New Zealand have finally realised that diving into shallow swimming pools is dangerous and slow. Twenty two years too late they have published something titled “POSITION STATEMENT – DIVE ENTRIES”. In it the CEO of Swimming New Zealand says this.

With recent changes to the Health and Safety Act increasing the accountability on facility owners and operators to provide safe ‘workplaces’, an increased focus is being seen by swimming pool operators in relation to how swimmers are diving into pools for both competition and training.  This increased focus is particularly relevant to pools with shallow depths of less than 1.4m.”

The statement then publishes a list of minimum depths required for pools where swimmers dive. Interestingly the Te Rapa pool in Hamilton does not comply with Swimming New Zealand’s new rules. At both ends the pool is too shallow. At 1.15m the Swimming New Zealand rules tell me that only pool deck dives are allowed. What that means is that no starting block dives are allowed at either end of the Te Rapa pool.

That must be a concern to Swimming New Zealand because in four weeks on the 15 September 2015 the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships are scheduled to begin in the Te Rapa pool. It will be interesting to see whether Swimming New Zealand comply with their new rules and protect the health and safety of their members or hold the meet in Hamilton anyway. My bet is that expediency will win over principle. In the case of Swimming New Zealand it always does.

I’m picking the meet will go ahead as though the new rules had never been printed. And every one of the 3500 dives will be further evidence of the hypocrisy characteristic of the sport’s administration. They say stuff with no intention of following through; a confusion of empty words without substance or meaning. However should anyone be interested in testing their integrity I still have the injunction papers prepared 22 years ago for this very pool. Change a couple of dates and they are ready to go. My guess is the likely decision would be the same as it was 23 years ago. The buggers just never change.     

PS – There have been a number of claims and counter-claims about the depth of the Hamilton pool and the height of the starting blocks. I have been sent two photographs taken at the pool – one of the “glass-wall” 50m start end of the pool and the other showing a rugby player climbing out of the pool taken at the other 100m start end of the pool. These photographs clearly show signs advising that the pool depth is 1.15m at both ends of the pool. This is the evidence used to support the arguments advanced in this post. 

The 50m end of the Te Rapa pool, displaying the depth sign on the side of the pool.

Andrew Hore at Te Rapa, via Getty Images. The sign indicating depth is beside his left leg.


Lauren Boyle On Funding

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Lauren Boyle’s decision to retire from competitive swimming was a significant event. For
years Boyle carried the reputation of New Zealand swimming. Many thousands of dollars
were paid into the Swimming New Zealand bank account on the back of her efforts. As she
added bronze and silver World Championship medals and world records to her personal
resume Swimming New Zealand administrators used her success to add to their income.
I don’t know Boyle all that well but my guess is she knew she was being used to feather the
head office nest but she carried on with dignity and class supporting her sport. She seemed
to me to always do what she thought was right; even if it meant putting to one side her real
feelings. She occasionally swam at the pool I coached at and would join in for photographs
with our club’s junior swimmers. There was sincerity about the way she participated in the
photographs. There was never any impression of the famous person doing their duty; a top
But I have a Lauren Boyle story. Three years ago I was scheduled to have a routine
ultrasound scan at the Waitakere Hospital. The technician asked if I was David Wright the
swimming coach. I said I was and we got into a discussion on swimming. As I often do I
talked too much. He seemed interested in my views on Swimming New Zealand and so I
expanded my theory that New Zealand’s best swimmer, Lauren Boyle, was being exploited
by the organization. Boyle, I said, was a class act but was being let down by poor and
bloated administration. At that point the technician explained that it was probably time to
come clean. He was Lauren’s boyfriend and was interested in how I viewed her position. It
was a lovely moment and an enjoyable exchange of ideas.
Actually I should have known better. Many years ago I was doing a Sunday run around the
20 mile Waitakere circuit. I caught up to a runner ahead of me. We ran along discussing
training ideas. I was a Lydiard disciple and made it clear that, in my view, Lydiard was not
being treated fairly by the sport. Eventually we got back to Titirangi village and parted
company. My companion thanked me for the company and asked my name. I told him. He
said he was pleased to meet me. His name he said was Gary Lydiard; Arthur’s son. “Wow” I
thought “Just as well I was a loyal Lydiard fan.”
But back to Lauren Boyle. I see there is a report out today with her views on the funding of
New Zealand swimming. The report covered a number of factors affecting swimming in New
Zealand. As she usually does Boyle framed her views with care and diplomacy. She clearly

has an interest in getting her point across but in a way that causes the least amount of
I do feel her effort to say the right thing in ways that avoid upsetting those in power is a lost
cause. The power elite in Swimming New Zealand will not be changed by suggestions and
subtle arguments. Reform in this national sport’s organization requires open assault; a
sledge hammer wielded zealously. These are not people influenced by reason and debate.
These are people who only understand two things – money and power.
In the extract below I have copied key points from the Boyle interview; points that I believe
Boyle has identified correctly and presented especially well.
Lauren Boyle says rather than highlight a lack of funding, a spotlight could be shone on
sporting bodies instead. The money comes from High Performance Sport NZ into the NSOs
[National Sporting Organisations] and if there are problems at the NSO level, like a lack of
quality managers or decision-makers, then, I don't know, maybe.
"NZ sporting bodies seem to have the knack of building an infrastructure that serves the
institution at the very least as well as it serves the customers, who are the athletes.
"In my opinion, you cut managerial resources, not the pool-deck interface, but that's hard to
What Boyle seems to be saying is that too much money goes on feeding the bureaucracy
and not enough gets spent on swimmers. If that is her point then I could not agree more. I
remember the day when Swimming New Zealand was one lady, called Donella Tait, working
part time out of two rooms in the old Dominion Building in Wellington. And there are several
important truths about Donella Tait and her sole charge time in Wellington.
1. I received far more communication from Donella Tait than I ever have from the
current Swimming New Zealand. Mind you that would not be difficult. I have had no
communication from the current management.
2. The standard of swimming when Donella Tait was on her own included world record
holders, Olympic medallist, World Championship medallists, Pan Pacific Games
medallists, Commonwealth Games medallists and world short course finals
3. Today the Swimming New Zealand staff profile page has 20 names and with Lauren
Boyle retired the organization has no world record holders, no Olympic medallist, no
World Championship medallists, no Pan Pacific Games medallists, no
Commonwealth Games medallists and no world short course finals medallists.

4. In the case of Swimming New Zealand we are paying for 19 additional people for
what – a worse result. It seems Lauren Boyle is right “NZ sporting bodies seem to
have the knack of building an infrastructure that serves the institution at the very least
as well as it serves the customers, who are the athletes.”
Laruen Boyle’s swimming career as a competitor and as a person was an unqualified
success. She performed amazingly well and conducted herself with poise and control. With
this sort of quiet diplomacy it could be that Lauren Boyle may be about to do her sport in
New Zealand just as big a service in retirement as she did in swimming.

How Did We Get Here?

Monday, August 7th, 2017

In my last Swimwatch post I discussed the poor performance of New Zealand in the 2017 World Swimming Championships. With good reason I recommended that the Swimming New Zealand Board resign and new ideas and a fresh approach be given a chance to guide the direction of the sport.

Essentially what this means is that the current very central control of the organisation by the Swimming New Zealand Board be replaced by a genuine regional, federal structure. Power and responsibility for performance needs to be devolved down to the people who can actually effect change. Currently people like Cotterell, Miskimmin and McKee who know little and can actually do even less have all the power and the money. In a federal structure their influence would be placed in the hands of people like Jeremy Duncan, Labara Gennadiy, Brigitte Mahan, Martin Harris, Andy Adair, Gary Hollywood, Sue Southgate, William Benson, Emma Swanwick, Judith Wright, Thomas Ansorg, Igor Polianski, Monica Cooper and many others.

Swimming New Zealand should have been governed by a federal structure for several years. In 2011 there was a focussed effort by the NZ swimming Regions to federalize the sport. Instead the opposite happened. A constitution was approved that centralized the sport into an authoritarian oligarchy. It is worthwhile looking at how that happened. In 2011 we were so close to really good reform and it was snatched away. We know the result has been an unbroken series of competitive failures. How did this happen? Who let federal reform slip from our grasp? Who out-maneuverer the reformers and imposed the current discredited and failed structure? Here is what happened.

In 2011 the push for federal reform was being led by the Auckland CEO, Brian Palmer and Bay of Plenty administrator Bronwen Radford. Opposing Palmer and Radford was Sport New Zealand CEO, Peter Miskimmin. Palmer and Radford had done a remarkable job of cobbling together an amalgamation of Regions demanding change. There was a popular demand to move away from central control to federal regional based governance. The Regions had asked for a national special meeting to reform the sport: to introduce democratic federalism. Miskimmin’s vision (called Project Vanguard) of a centralized elite program based around one pool in Auckland was a lost cause – and Miskimmin knew it.

And so he made a decision to call Palmer and invite him to a meeting in Wellington. At that point I knew our reform movement was in trouble. Palmer called me the night before the Wellington meeting to discuss what was likely to happen. We talked on and on until 12.30am. Over and over I warned Palmer that he was walking into a trap. He would be wined and dined – not literally, Palmer is a Mormon and does not drink – and conned into accepting a compromise. I told Palmer he was walking into a lion’s den of bureaucrats. Promises would be made, threats would be hinted at and in the end what we wanted would be lost. Palmer said I had nothing to fear. He could handle it. The movement for reform had not come this far to be lost to some smooth talking Wellington civil servants.

Palmer’s apparent contempt for the people he was dealing with gave me even more cause for concern. These were skilled operators; taking them lightly was extremely foolish. I felt Palmer would be seduced by the charm of Wellington power. Difficult reforms such as this one demand personal courage and an irrational lack of concern for personal safety. I hoped all would be well, but after that phone call, I was concerned Palmer would be eaten alive. Our reform would be lost.

And that is what happened. When he got back from Wellington I called Palmer to find out what had happened. Unlike the night before he was now extremely guarded. He said he could not talk much because all those attending the meeting had accepted a condition of secrecy. I asked whether he thought that was appropriate for a sport that was owned by the membership. Didn’t the membership have a right to know the content of the sport’s most important meeting in one hundred years? Palmer was clearly embarrassed. He ducked and dived. I’m sure he knew that I would see the conclusion of the meeting as a betrayal of all we had fought to achieve.

Over the days that followed the truth emerged. Palmer had backed away from the reform plans and had accepted Miskimmin’s proposal for what became the Moller study and report. Palmer told me that he had no option. If he had insisted on federal reform lawyers would have been called in and court cases would have been the result. All that may or may not have been right – who knows? What we do know is that Palmer folded. He accepted Miskimmin’s position and agreed to the Moller study. In six hours in Wellington Palmer’s decision to abandon the cause and appease Miskimmin began events that have resulted in six years of Swimming New Zealand pain.

A year later the Moller Report was produced and accepted. Far from recommending the federal structure the Regions wanted, Moller recommended even greater central control; an even greater autocratic government. By this time the Regions were tired and beaten up from the fight. They would accept anything in the cause of peace. And at a Special General meeting on 28th July 2012, by a vote of 35 in favour and 13 abstaining, the Mollar plan was approved; the inevitable conclusion of the Wellington 2011 abdication was completed.

The 2011 meeting in Wellington sowed the seeds for the defeat of Regional influence on the sport. When leadership was most required it was not provided. It was a serious error that has had long term serious consequences. The vote at the Special Meeting accepting the conclusion was merely rubber stamping the obvious. It is relevant to question some of the votes at the meeting. The New Zealand Swim Coaches Association voted for the Moller plan. Surely they must have been aware that a central structure was going to rob their members of power and influence. The organisation responsible for the health of coaching voted for its evisceration. Bay of Plenty, the home region of one of the leaders of the reform movement Bronwen Radford, voted for the Moller plan. That was strange about face. And finally Southland, a Region that has always justifiably prided itself on its independence voted in favour of Moller. Had those three votes been different Moller would have lost.

Palmer’s 2011 meeting set in motion events that would hurt swimming in New Zealand for a generation. Last week at the World Championships we began to learn just how serious. None of us, including Swimming New Zealand, know just how far further down the bottom will be.          


Team New Zealand

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

It has been quite a week for New Zealand sport. The All Blacks beat the British Lions in the first rugby test. Michael Venus won the doubles at the French Tennis Open. Scott Dixon won the Kohler Nascar Grand Prix. The women’s rugby sevens team won the 2017 World Championship. And Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) won the America’s Cup.

Clearly the success of ETNZ is especially admirable. The America’s Cup is the world’s oldest international sporting trophy and is the place where some of the most arrogant and well-resourced participants come to seek sporting fame. Scottish businessman Sir Thomas Lipton, New York financiers, New Zealand business magnate Michael Faye, British railway tycoon James Lloyd Ashbury, the Earl of Dunraven, aviation industrialist Sir Thomas Sopwith, Australian businessman Alan Bond, billionaire Bill Koch, billionaire Raul Gardini Il, biotechnology entrepreneur Ernesto Bertarelli and owner of the Oracle Corporation Larry Ellison have all poured millions into the challenging or defending the America’s Cup.  

And yesterday the under-resourced minnow, ETNZ, won the America’s Cup. It is relevant to ask whether their success carried any lessons for New Zealand sport in general? I would argue that there are several important lessons.

First – minnows can win. Grant Dalton was right. If Oracle thought spending seven times more than they did was necessary, the money would have been spent. I’m not sure of the exact quote but Dalton said something like. “We knew we could not out spend them so we had to be smarter.” Lydiard, Jelley, Tonks and others thought the same way. It is a great feeling. Overcoming the odds. Winning against the big guys. David against Goliath. I am not a great one for nationalism but I think it is the way New Zealanders perform best. The lesson for swimming in what Dalton has done is clear. If you are part of a small club in Timaru, Te Awamutu, Taumaranui or Taradale you can win. You don’t need to be part of North Shore or Capital. You certainly don’t need to belong to the Swimming New Zealand Millennium Institute. Have the confidence to stay where you are and train smarter. It works.  

Second – independence works. Did you notice how ETNZ stayed in Auckland longer than the other teams quietly preparing, away from the politics and trash talk of Bermuda. What a good decision. Doing what’s right for you is important. A huge problem in New Zealand swimming is for years Swimming New Zealand has drip, drip, dripped the idea that when it comes to preparing swimmers SNZ knows best. The rest of us are inferior; not quite as good; not quite as smart. Swimming New Zealand’s Millennium Institute, we are told, is at the cutting edge of swimming preparation. They are the Oracle of the sport. But Dalton this week proved independence is more important than Oracle. Dalton’s decisions to not sign the agreement on how the cup should be run, to finish his preparation in Auckland, to design his own software and to employ a talented rookie helmsman and a rower and a cyclist to crew the boat showed us the value of independence. Is there any chance that similar initiatives in swimming would be allowed by Swimming New Zealand? Of course not. They are way too bureaucratic for that.

Third – expertise is important. There is no question that the people controlling affairs at ETNZ are yachting people. The CVs of Dalton, Burling, Ashby and others include Round the World races, Olympic medals and world championships. Those guys have been racing boats forever. And that knowledge of the sport is important. Compare that to swimming where the Board, the CEO and the National Coach have little or no knowledge of elite swimming. Oh, their webpages claim they have done some junior swimming, lifesaving and water polo. But none of that is elite swimming. They are bureaucrats making bureaucratic decisions. Because they do not know the product, they make decisions swimming people would never make. I had the same problem in Saudi Arabia. The federation CEO had no coaching experience but insisted on telling me how I should coach the national team swimmers. I finally snapped and told him that bureaucrats should stay away from the team’s training program. Hilariously, the CEO, a devout Mormon, told me to, “Fuck off.” But I was right. Just ask ETNZ.                

Fourth – centralized training does not work. If anything is the antitheses of the centralised training policy imposed on New Zealand sport by Baumann and Miskimmin the independence of ETNZ must be it. Can you imagine Grant Dalton being run and managed by HPSNZ? What a shambles. Certainly the America’s Cup would be on its way back to California today. The Swimming New Zealand Board would have had the Dalton team sailing at the Cambridge training centre where the boat’s daily practice on Lake Karapiro could be monitored by a HPSNZ biomechnist. And, as though more proof was needed, the America’s Cup has just been won by men HPSNZ discarded and abandoned. Simon van Velthooven was cut from the centralised Cycling New Zealand program for the Rio Olympic Games and according to Cycling New Zealand was, “Given permission to pursue other opportunities.” Little did those boffins know that they were releasing him to go off and win the oldest prize in world sport. Rower Joe Sullivan retired from rowing after centralized Rowing New Zealand left him out of the New Zealand squad for the Rio Games. And then ETNZ came knocking.

Fifth – New Zealand has something special. The success of ETNZ confirms that New Zealanders can look after themselves. Sure Dalton had an Australian skipper, and wealthy Italian and UAE sponsors but the core of the operation was New Zealand. Compare that to Swimming New Zealand where the policy direction is set by a Canadian, the CEO for years was an Australian, the National Coach has been Australian, English and is now an American. In fact two good New Zealander coaches have just been sacked to make way for the American coach. It is not difficult to reach the conclusion that this Swimming New Zealand Board operate on the policy of anyone except a New Zealander.

Clearly few of the qualities that have made ETNZ the toast of world sport today are present in New Zealand swimming. Perhaps that’s why New Zealand has won the America’s Cup three times in the last twenty years and in the same period swimming is yet to have an Olympic win. If the phone rings and it’s the SNZ Millennium Institute take another tip from Dalton – tell them you’ll call back.