Archive for May, 2011

Most Glorious Night

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

By David

Last night the Auckland Swimming Centre called a meeting to discuss Project Vanguard. I was impressed. I can see why Auckland Swimming is well run and successful. Good people expressed their views openly and honestly. I do like the way Suzanne Speer operates. Clearly she feels deeply about the issues involved in Project Vanguard. She undoubtedly has been hurt by the decision to remove her from the Project Vanguard steering committee. And yet none of that came through in her presentation to this meeting. She was calm and balanced. She discussed the issues involved with more control than I could ever manage. Rejecting a woman of her calibre says just about all you need to know about the motives of the Swimming New Zealand Board.

The meeting addressed two issues. The integrity of the Project Vanguard process and the competing decisions required in the future. A couple of speakers linked the two subjects. I agreed with that. Clearly constitutional change does depend on trusting those promoting the amendment. That’s where Project Vanguard comes unstuck. Already we have a prominent legal opinion that Swimming New Zealand have acted illegally. Swimming’s Head Office is asking us to trust them to assume control of the whole organization. That’s difficult when they have acted dishonestly presenting their case. Actually it’s worse than difficult – it’s flat out impossible.

Two events of interest occurred towards the end of the evening. A West Auckland Aquatics’ parent, Stephen Pye, addressed the meeting. Stephen is the immediate past President of New Zealand Surf’s Northland Region. Surf has already been through a Project Vanguard experience. Except it was called Project Groundswell. Evidently the Northern Region has survived the experience quite well. Why? They simply opted out of the whole deal. In the face of huge political pressure they stood firm and refused to be absorbed into the national socialist collective being promoted by their Wellington Head Office. They believed federalism works best. Local people look after their affairs better than Wellington civil servants. Stephen’s message was clear – accept nothing unless it is clearly and absolutely 100% in each Region’s (in this case Auckland) best interest. I agree – vague promises and exaggerated claims are insufficient; especially when they are peddled by a hired gun from Christchurch, a sacked Olympic Association Board member, a CEO who knows embarrassingly little about the sport and a High Performance Manager who thinks Nepotism is the name of the favourite to win the Millennium mile at Te Rapa.

The meeting had ended when the second event of interest occurred. The Auckland Region’s Board members had retired to an adjacent room to hold a Board meeting. The Chairman, Andrew Brown, told us the Board was going to consider Auckland’s damning legal opinion on Swimming New Zealand’s behaviour. Included on the Auckland Board is Dominic Toomey, an Auckland lawyer and Swimming New Zealand Board member. I had noticed him during the meeting. When Stephen Pye was talking Toomey conducted a loud conversation with ex-Swimming New Zealand President, John West. It was rude and arrogant. It typified the contempt Swimming New Zealand people have for their members. If this conversation was representative of how they behave they are people of few manners and little breeding. We are well shot of both of them.

Anyway, back to the Auckland Region Board Meeting. About twenty minutes after it began, I was standing in the corridor when the door to their meeting room opened and an angry Toomey came storming out. He strode across the foyer and disappeared into Auckland’s most glorious night. Something had gone seriously wrong. Characteristically Toomey had packed his toys and refused to associate with those who did not agree with him. I’d love to know what had tipped this spoilt child over the edge. Was it Maria Clark’s impressive legal opinion criticising Toomey’s Wellington mates? Was it Suzanne Speer’s revelation to the earlier meeting that she had never approved the termination of the Vanguard Committee? Was it the revelation that Toomey’s boss President Coulter was not telling the truth when he claimed the decision was unanimous. Had Toomey promised his Swimming New Zealand buddies that he’d be the man to deliver Auckland’s vote in favour of Project Vanguard. Whatever it was Toomey does not react well when he doesn’t get his own way. Come to think of it – it seems there are a number of situations in which lawyer Toomey behaves badly.

When I left Auckland Swimming’s headquarters the night was not yet done. I arrived home to find a leaked email from my Australian based ex-New Zealand swimming friend. The email was from Swimming New Zealand wishing the organisation’s High Performance Intern Emma Dean well as she returned to the UK to complete the final year of her Sports Science Degree at Bath University. It was the emails middle paragraph that caught my attention. Here is what it said.

Emma has been an integral part of our team here in Auckland since July 2010, she has gone above and beyond our expectations of an intern and fully immersed herself into Swimming New Zealand. The swimmers, coaches and staff alike have become used to having Emma around and she will be greatly missed by everyone here at MISH.

Here at Swimwatch we couldn’t agree more. Above and beyond is barely an adequate description. I know of only one or two interns anywhere that have done as much or immersed themselves as far to please their bosses. With the team and Coach Scott off to the USA to prepare for the World Championships the amount of immersion left for a willing intern will be greatly reduced. A job well done though – an intern’s trip to New Zealand; truly a most glorious night!

Berlin! Berlin! Wir Fahren Nach Berlin!

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

By David

Fans of the beautiful game may recognise the title of this post. It is the popular chant soccer fans used during the 2006 Berlin World Cup finals. In English it means, “Berlin! Berlin! We’re going to Berlin!” It came to mind during a conversation I had this morning with my daughter Jane. She lives in London but is about to leave for a weekend holiday in the German capital. Describing Berlin she called it, “The home town of two of our family’s national records.”

It was not a thought I’d ever had before. But she was right.

On August 17 1979 Alison ran 1000 meters in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. That was back in the days when the Berlin Wall divided the city and communism ruled the eastern portion of the German state. On the morning before Alison’s run we visited Checkpoint Charlie, one of the very few passes through the wall; between East and West. America’s best 400 meter hurdler at the time, James King, decided he wanted a closer look over the wall and climbed high into a convenient tree. I was horrified to see him leaning out of the tree giving a well practiced central finger salute to a dangerous looking, Kalashnikov armed, East German guard. On closer inspection, the guard looked bored by the whole thing. I suspect he may have been insulted by brash westerners many times before.

Without doubt Berlin’s Olympic Stadium is the World’s finest athletic track. I visited the plaque commemorating New Zealander, Jack Lovelock’s 1500 meter victory in the 1936 Olympic Games. I stood on the concrete plinth used by Hitler to watch the Games. The atmosphere and the sense of history were without peer. Alison’s performance matched the setting. Her time of 2:38.54 ranked her fifth in the world that year and set a New Zealand Open Woman’s Record for the event. Thirty two years later it is still the National Record; the fastest time run by a New Zealand woman.

Twenty one years after Alison’s run, in early 2000, our fifteen year old daughter, Jane, was also competing in Berlin; not in track and field but in swimming. By this time the wall had gone and Germany was unified. In fact the pool in which the World Cup took place had been built in the heart of the old East Berlin. The meet was an important one for Jane. Weeks earlier in Australia, New Zealand National Coach, Brett Naylor, told her he thought she was not nearly a good enough swimmer to be competing on the European World Cup circuit, and called her an embarrassment to her country. I’ve very seldom seen Jane cry, but she did that night. However, in Berlin it took her 1:06.33 to put the record straight. That’s the time it took her to swim 100 meters IM. That’s also the time that made her a New Zealand 15 Years Age Group record holder. I guess it’s true; he (or she) who laughs last, laughs longest.

In that trip Jane went on to swim well in Imperia, Italy and Paris, France. But Berlin alone remained as, “The home town of two of our family’s national records.”

Jane’s first Open Woman’s record was about as far from the history, glamour and majesty of Berlin as you can imagine. She set that record over 200 meters breaststroke in the small Hawkes Bay agricultural town of Waipukerau. From Berlin to Waipukerau, that’s part of the fun of sport.

The photograph below shows Alison and Jane posing in their respective New Zealand track suits – both of which saw service in the German capital, Berlin.
Jane Copland and Alison Wright

Video Appeal

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

By David

So President Coulter has come up with an appeal letter to the SNZ Regions. In a desperate effort to avoid the compelling accusation that his Board has acted illegally Coulter alleges that Project Vanguard is still in Stage Three and the Project Vanguard Committee unanimously disbanded itself. His arguments in this communiqué are as specious and erroneous as the author’s other recent missives.

But, before I consider the specifics of his letter, I must make mention of the horrendous use of the English language practiced by this individual. I have been fortunate enough to receive an education in some of the world’s finest institutions, including Victoria University, Oxford University and the London School of Economics. I have been forced to study the works of Mills, Smith, Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas and Marx. I once wrote a mini-thesis on the Chinese philosopher Xun Zi’s work on “Dispelling Obsession” – “I pluck and pluck the burr-weed But it does not fill my slanting basket. I sigh for my loved one; I would be in the ranks of Zhou.”
I have to say though that nothing in my past education prepared me for Coulter’s endeavours. Take a look at this example from his May 14, 2011 email to the Regions.

… to develop detailed business requirements, confirmation and validation of benefits, the on-going sustainability and organisation impacts assessments for the preferred option(s).

What on earth does that mean? It’s just rubbish. Coulter is one of those sad individuals who use words to impress rather than inform.

Coulter’s first paragraph is intended as a defence against the accusation that the SNZ Board acted ultra vires when it dissolved the Committee without the approval of the Delegates. The Vanguard Committee was established in 2008 to review the current regional structure and make recommendations to the Board as to how this could be optimised. Coulter now claims:

  • The Committee was not designed to be a body that saw the project through from beginning to end, as it was recognised that as the project moved from phase to phase differing groups of people would need to be called upon to contribute.

I have read the minutes of the 2008 Annual General Meeting and all the Board Meetings since. I can find no record of the Regions or even the SNZ Board deciding that the Committee was not committed to the long haul. Coulter’s claim is an invention. He has made it up. His claim that as the project moved from phase to phase different people would be involved is also a fiction. He is simply making these claims now to dodge the reality that his Board has acted illegally. It is another fabric of deception.

  • In April, the Project Vanguard Committee unanimously decided amongst itself that the purpose for which it had been established (to provide high level options for change) had been achieved, and as such resolved to dissolve.

I think we should begin to use the term “a Coulterism” to describe any claim relating to Project Vanguard that is an exaggeration or a lie. This paragraph is a Coulterism. Three times I’ve heard Coulter claim that the “the Committee unanimously decided” to end its work. I would like to ask President Coulter whether he understands the meaning of unanimous. That committee had some pretty independent thinkers. I’d be surprised if all of them voted for their own execution. Is Coulter prepared to maintain this fiction in the face of his severest critic?

The second Coulterism in this paragraph is his claim that the purpose of the Committee was “to provide high level options for change” That’s another invention of the Coulter brain. The Committee was actually formed to “review the current regional structure and make recommendations to the Board as to how this could be optimised.” There was never any mention of “high level options for change.” Coulter would like to think that’s what he had been charged to do. This paragraph is his shot at saying it’s true so it must be. That’s the way he runs the organization.

  • As this decision had been made by the Committee the SNZ Board accepted the responsibility for bringing Phase 3 to its end point and producing a business case.

I am not an expert on SNZ politics but it does seem to me that the only personnel change made as a consequence of the abolition of the Committee was to banish a couple of dissenting voices. Only the party faithful remained in the process. Dissent is not a quality tolerated in the Coulter Reich.
Coulter’s next paragraph concentrates on avoiding the charge of moving between Project Vanguard phases without the approval of the Regions. This seems to be a lot of work for a guy who told us the approval of the Regions was never included in the 2010 AGM resolution.

The dissolution of the Committee did not signify the end of Phase 3.

If that’s true why did Coulter say in his letter 23 April 2011, “We will settle on a new engagement model for the following step/s over the next month or so which will see us designing a fairly detailed model for the delivery of all services.” “Designing a fairly detailed model” sounds like a “Phase 4 (Detailed Design) to me. If Coulter isn’t making this stuff up as he goes along he gives a really good impression of that being the case.

“The Board will seek approval from the regions (by way of a vote) to move into Phase 4 (Detailed Design). Again, once Phase 4 has been completed, the Board will again look for approval to move into implementation of the model.”

We should say amen to that paragraph. As Swimwatch reported in January; “everyone should pin a copy of this paragraph to their bedroom wall. It is the sport’s lifeboat on a sinking Titanic. The Board, its Chairman, Byrne and Cameron are required to obtain the permission of the regions before they can move Project Vanguard to the next stage.” We need to hold Coulter to this undertaking. The Regions need to tie him down to dates and methods of voting. Just give those buggers an inch and they will take a country mile.


Sunday, May 15th, 2011

By David

Many readers will have experienced occasions when a disagreement about some event degenerates into an exchange of personal insults. Project Vanguard very quickly achieved that status. Of course I am a very easy target. It takes almost no time at all for opponents to bring out the trouble maker, dishonest, reactionary and bad person labels. Remember Jenny from Lower Hutt? Very early on in the Vanguard debate she was throwing around personal insults like confetti at a wedding.

Recognizing that all this stuff was getting in the way of a reasoned debate I decided to ask a legal firm, specializing in sport’s law, for their “advice regarding the actions of the Swimming NZ Board (“SNZ Board”)”. I selected a firm whose reputation is above reproach, whose standing in the world of sport is without peer and who have a name for calling things the way they are. If my opinion on Project Vanguard was wrong I wanted them to say so. I have now received their report. In this article quotations from the Report are recorded in speech marks and italics.

In particular, I asked the lawyers to investigate:

“a. Whether the SNZ Board has acted properly in moving from each phase of Project Vanguard without receiving Delegate approval?

b. Whether the SNZ 2010 AGM minutes are a true reflection of what occurred at the AGM?

c. Whether the SNZ Board’s decision to dissolve the Project Vanguard Committee is lawful?

d. What next steps are available?”

Their answers are extremely interesting and are a cause for concern. The balance of this article will summarize their findings.

Approval to Move Between Stages
It appears that Project Vanguard has moved into the “Design” Stage Four without the approval of the Delegates. At least in a letter dated 23 April 2011 that’s what President Coulter told us. He said:

We will settle on a new engagement model for the following step/s over the next month or so which will see us designing a fairly detailed model for the delivery of all services.

So Coulter has admitted “completing” the “Committee’s mandated tasks” and moving to the “Design” Stage; that’s Stage Four. Were SNZ legally required to obtain approval from the Regions before taking this action? It seems so. Here is what the lawyers say:

at the 2010 AGM, the Chairman of the Project Vanguard Committee apologised for the oversight in not coming back to the Delegates for approval to move to Stage 2 and moved a retrospective motion seeking their retrospective approval. The resolution also stated that approval from the “membership” will continue to be sought at the end of each phase of the project seeking continuation to the next.

And the conclusion of all this is that the SNZ Board has “acted ultra vires (outside of its power) by not coming back to the Delegates to move to the next phase of the Project.”

Accuracy of the Minutes
The lawyer’s opinion says it all.

It appears therefore that the draft minutes that are currently on the website are not a correct reflection of what occurred at the AGM. Minutes remain in draft until they are “approved” by the Delegates at the next meeting so the accuracy of the minutes can be raised and resolved at the beginning of the next general meeting.

The onus of proving that the minutes are incorrect rests with the person making the claim. So ultimately, if it is determined the minutes are incorrect then the Delegates present at the 2010 AGM would be required to produce affidavits of what occurred at the AGM.

However given SNZ is acting on incorrect draft minutes we recommend steps are taken before the next AGM.

Dissolving the Vanguard Committee
The lawyers are very clear on this bit of trickery. Here is what they say.

We have reviewed the recent letter dated 21 April 2011, from the President of SNZ, Murray Coulter, which records that “the Committee’s mandated tasks have been completed” and that “the Board will now assume the project governance function directly. The Project Vanguard Committee was established by resolution of the Delegates at the 2008 AGM therefore, in accordance with legal principles the approval of the Delegates is required to dissolve the Committee.

In our view the SNZ Board is acting ultra vires if it dissolves the Committee without the approval of the Delegates.

Next Steps
Whenever a comprehensive report is summarized as has been done here there will inevitably be shades of meaning and qualifications that are glossed over or omitted altogether. With this in mind I am happy to send any SNZ Region or SNZ member a copy of the full report (less only a couple of personal references that were included in my query).

It is important something is done with this information.

The legal position is that the Board must always be subservient and accountable to the membership through general meetings of members. Therefore, subject to the rules of the constitution, decisions of societies must be mandated by the membership at large and by decisions made at general meetings. Rule 11.1 of the SNZ Constitution also states that the Board shall exercise all of the powers of SNZ as set out in the Constitution other than those required to be exercised in general meetings.

Three times recently the SNZ Board, led by Coulter, Byrne and Burge have acted ultra vires, beyond their powers. When a Board acts in this manner the members are put at huge risk. No one is safe. The rules are important. They have been included in the law and the SNZ Constitution for a reason. They protect the organization and its members.

However, I can do no more. I am not a Region. I am not even a member of SNZ. It is now important that the membership react to the information that the SNZ Board has acted illegally. The Board must be censured for what has occurred recently and should be replaced by individuals who do know how to act. Project Vanguard is being sold as a brave new world for swimming in New Zealand. For reasons that have been widely covered here I do not believe that is true. Worse than that, the method of Project Vanguard’s implementation has led Swimming New Zealand into a dark place. Someone must now take the lead in restoring light to the organization. The lawyer’s report suggests a way this can be done. I recommend we follow that submission. Kia Kaha.

If you would like a copy of the full Report please email me at .

Into The Red Zone

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By David

When bad people are under pressure their mistakes multiply. That is certainly true of those responsible for Swimming New Zealand. A few years ago I used to be very careful about what was written on Swimwatch about Cameron, Byrne, Toomey and Coulter. I didn’t want to be sued. Now I don’t care. The defence of truth is so impregnable no action of theirs could possibly succeed.
Take the email sent by President Coulter to the Bay of Plenty Centre today. In it he says, “The SNZ Board disagrees with your opinion on these items.” Now I’ve read every Swimming New Zealand Board minute posted on their precious website and cannot find a single reference to the Bay of Plenty letters. If I was a Board member of Swimming New Zealand I would be very concerned about a President who assumes his opinions are the views of the whole Board – especially when the President is as out of control as this one.

However the clause of most concern in President Coulter’s letter is the following.

“There was much discussion at the AGM about the next phases and approvals required. However the motion approved according to the records of the meeting did not include the wording you have in italics. We believe the draft minutes are accurate, and we await approval by the next General Meeting. The sentiment of the meeting was that we should all be involved in decisions progressing the organisation and that will be the case.”

Is the wording of this clause the product of a crook and a complicit attorney? See what you think. The second sentence says, “The motion approved according to the records of the meeting did not include the wording you have in italics.” How bloody obvious is that? Of course the minutes that are now on their website do not include the original words. Murray Coulter took them out. Coulter doctored the minutes. And now he’s gambling on the next AGM approving the phony minutes. How does Swimwatch know this? Here is how.

  1. The Bay of Plenty version of the minute was written down at the AGM by two Regional delegates who have copied Swimwatch with their notes.
  2. The Bay of Plenty version of the minute was copied by Swimwatch for the story posted in January called “In the Vanguard of Political Intrigue” from the original AGM minutes posted on the SNZ website.
  3. The Bay of Plenty version of the minute is still shown in the Project Vanguard notes recorded on the SNZ website.


Does any Swimwatch reader really believe it is possible for four independent sources who have never met each other to construct exactly the same wording for exactly the same minute, if that minute never existed? Of course it’s not. Coulter altered the minutes and now he is in full cover-up mode.
President Coulter’s next sentence is usually the product of advice from a second-rate lawyer. It says. “We believe the draft minutes are accurate.” Notice the phrase, “we believe”. That’s a dead giveaway qualification used by the guilty-as-hell. Just in case things go bad, President Coulter’s lawyer has left an escape route. “We never said the minutes were accurate, we just thought they were accurate.” Yea right and Bill Clinton never had sex with that woman.

Mistakes and lies reported to me today were not restricted to President Coulter. Byrne is under pressure and is beginning to panic. A delegate at the SNZ Project Vanguard meeting last weekend told me that Byrne announced to the meeting that the Absolute Insurance Company’s sponsorship of the Auckland Centre was putting SNZ’s State Insurance sponsorship at risk. There are two pretty serious errors in that lie. First, Absolute does not sponsor Auckland Swimming. They sponsor the Swimming League. Second, the Absolute Insurance involvement in swimming sponsorship predates State’s sponsorship. State simply don’t care that Absolute is helping provide the League prize money. If Byrne did say this stuff, he was lying.
The same delegate told me Byrne was also asked if anyone opposed to Project Vanguard had been invited to the Wellington meeting. Or was this a Nuremberg “Rally of Honour” for the party faithful. “Certainly not”, Byrne told the meeting. This event was for a cross section of opinion. “What about a well know opponent from Bay of Plenty”, Byrne was asked. “Yes”, Byrne said, she had been specifically invited. Well, you will not be surprised to hear, that was also a lie.

Talking about invitations, our Club received an invitation today from Auckland Swimming to attend a meeting to hear about Project Vanguard. Here is what the email said.

All Auckland Clubs. You will no doubt be aware that SNZ has been taking significant advances as it relates to Project Vanguard – these have profound implications for all of who participate in the sport and will shortly involve us as a regional body making some important choices that will affect all of our futures. While all is not completely clear there are now four clear choices which have been tabled by Swimming New Zealand as being their preferred models for consideration. The Auckland Board feels that matters have now reached a point where it is vital that clubs are once more be engaged in this process. They have asked me to invite you all to a meeting to discuss Project Vanguard at Sports House, Harbour Sport Albany on 19th May at 7:00 pm. This invitation is open not just to club officers but also to any member who has an interest. Regards

Thank you Auckland Swimming for the opportunity to discuss Project Vanguard. Faced with the SNZ dirty pool discussed in this article it is a most important initiative. I do hope it is enthusiastically supported by all swimming people. My guess though is that SNZ will paint it as some sort of insurrection.
And finally today I was contacted by our lawyers who tell me their report on Swimming New Zealand’s bad behaviour will be delivered this Thursday.

Most certainly the sport of swimming has just entered the red zone. The signs are good. My feeling is that a touchdown is imminent. I’m just not sure yet who is going to do the scoring.