Incepto Ne Desistam

By David

So Cameron and Byrne have gone. Swimwatch has fought for six years for this day. From the moment Cameron first proposed her socialist dream on Auckland’s North Shore, this column said it would not work. New Zealand was doomed to lose and we did. A generation of New Zealand’s best swimmers put their trust in Cameron; they sold their talent for Cameron’s thirty pieces of silver and they lost what mattered most. They lost their shot at Olympic glory. Six years ago Swimwatch was right; absolutely, totally right. Finally, today there is vindication.

However there is no sense of joy or elation. There is relief but no thrill. Why? Because the job is only half done. There are two important things still to do.

First – Coulter and his Board must go. They have been found desperately inadequate. They have fiddled while Rome has burned. It is not as though they were not told. Swimwatch told them constantly that this day would arrive. They did not listen. They ignored our warnings. Now they must pay the price. Their ignorance; their short-sighted vision; their willingness to tamper with legality is terminal. The Regions must find and elect a Board with the integrity and the moral authority to govern.

I am sad for someone like Alison Fitch. She is a good person. Unfortunately she should have left weeks ago. Now she is guilty by association. Those around her in Wellington have provided the very worst of examples and she has been found short of the courage or vision to do anything about it. Now she must pay the price with her resignation. Coulter, Berge and Toomey are the Board’s inner circle. Responsibility for this fiasco lies squarely with them. They have played politics with the reputations of some very good people. There are still several unanswered questions about whether they have lied and cheated in order to push their agenda. This lot should leave the building tomorrow and never have anything to do with sport in New Zealand again. I am especially disappointed in Toomey. In name only he is a lawyer. In reality, he needs to learn much about what it means to chose between good and bad, right and wrong before he seeks to progress in that profession.

Disappearing along with the old Board should be the unseemly mess that is now Project Vanguard. That fiasco is as discredited as the organ that gave it birth. I guess the passing of Project Vanguard could be seen as one very good thing coming out of all this turmoil. Actually that’s not fair. A second good thing also happened. Suzanne Speer acted with great dignity and courage in the face of some petty dirty pool. For that alone I’d nominate her for the new Swimming New Zealand Board. She has already demonstrated the character and honesty required to get this show back on the road.

Second – SPARC has done their job well. They have acted in a manner not normally associated with Wellington bureaucrats. They have identified a problem and have taken prudent and decisive steps to bring it into the open. They have acted in the very best interests of this sport and sport in general. They deserve the highest respect for their courage and their good management.

Their good example must not be wasted. SPARC has provided swimming with a blank sheet of paper on which a new, successful Swimming New Zealand can be designed – especially a new elite swimming program. That opportunity must not be missed. New Zealand must not meddle again in the socialist worlds of Cameron and Vanguard. They are discredited beyond redemption. Federalism is where this sport in New Zealand needs to be. Swimwatch readers may recall a story we did recently in which we suggested New Zealand build its elite program around a philosophy of “rugged individualism”. That is where New Zealand found Olympic Champions like Snell, Halberg, Walker and Loader in the past. That is where they will be in the future. And incidentally that is where the United States finds them today – in Baltimore and Daytona Beach and Delray Beach; in their version of “rugged individualism”.

SPARC has provided us with a once in a generation opportunity to do something good for swimming in New Zealand. Treat that responsibility with care. Don’t just go off to the United States and hire some high profile University coach and put him in charge of the Millennium Institute. That’s just Cameron with a different name. That won’t work. Look instead at maximizing New Zealand’s coaching resources. Look at improving what Hurring does in Wellington, what Duncan does in Invercargill, what I do in Auckland and what a dozen other coaches do across this country every day. Make us the team. Make us responsible. We will not let you down. Kent, Meihe, Winter, Bouzaid, Wright, Hurring, Duncan, and a few others – we can get female swimmers doing 1.53 for 200 freestyle and 58 for 100 backstroke. Cameron never could, but we can. The opportunity is before the administrators of swimming in New Zealand to provide our coaches with the structure that allows and compels us to provide you with world class athletes.

We have concluded a dark chapter of dictatorship rule in the history of New Zealand swimming. Things could not have got worse. The sport is most certainly on its way back. Thank you SPARC. It’s up to us now.              

  • michael mc

    David you are a legend finally out in print and on TV. Whoops SNZ watch out now .

  • Edward

    Top stuff David! You are right, now is the hour. Go and do it NZ!

  • Chris

    Hang on guys!!

    After watching the news on several channels last night and witnessing a very shameful and squirming display by Murray Coulter, I read the report (you have to search quite a bit on the SNZ website under ‘Members Noticeboard’).

    And I’m afraid to have to say it, but I think Coulter and his gang are going to dig in!

    How could you read that report where it slammed leadership in three areas – Jan Cameron, Mike Byrne and Murray Coulter’s Board – and not come to the ‘no-brainer’ conclusion that the whole lot have to be cleared out. Certainly the 83% who questioned the leadership seemed to think so, and when that direct question was asked on TV and whether he and the Board would take responsibility, all that Coulter could summons was a decidedly limp-wristed “no, no, not us. It was only the HP”. And remember this – the Terms of Reference for the Ineson Report was very narrowly supposed to be only about the HP programme, not about the governance or operations. And yet it seemed that Ineson went as far as he could within those narrow Terms of Reference and pointed some several deliberate barbs towards both the governance (Coulter and the Board) and operations (CEO, Mike Byrne).

    It was blindingly obvious that the whole Cameron/HP debacle was allowed to fester for so long because of SNZ’s “dysfunctional” leadership i.e. Byrne and Coulter’s Board. And yet, what does our revered leader say in response, “well we have been struggling to put our finger on it, but this report has helped us to do that”. OMG … I tell you what Murray. I’ll put a finger on it for you. That finger is pointing directly at you. And it is about time you and the entire Board took responsiblity and stood down. NOW!!

    Cameron is gone! NO-BRAINER there. Byrne is deadwood! He’s gone. NO-BRAINER there as well. But Coulter and the entire Board have got to do the decent thing and go and it is about bloody time the regions moved on this. Otherwise we will have the absolute farce of the very people who have brought this sport into such disrepute being the ones charged with reviewing THEMSELVES.

    I guarantee something David. If Coulter and his Board dig in, this is what will happen. They will deliver up Cameron as the scapegoat, blaming her for all their problems, BUT just “re-assign” her to some other role or make one up for her. They will leave that idiot Byrne, because he is a mate of Coulter, and the Board will just carry on in their dillusional way without skipping a beat pushing the Vanguard wheelbarrow down the Surf NZ abyss.

    What a travesty!

  • Paul Kent

    A team that believes in each other ALWAYS sticks together! Murray, I watched your limp interview last night on TV and must say that I was extremely ashamed for our sport and embarrassed for you to see the hospital pass you gave to Jan. Jan may have a few skeletons in the closet, but she did the job she was given to do, rightly or wrongly. You and Mike Byrne are in charge of staff accountabilities and both of you have failed in this area, now you are trying to save your own neck by loading blame elsewhere, its shameful to watch.

    Both you, Mike and the board need to do the right thing and stand aside to allow the next generation of governance the opportunity to craft a new transparent direction forward. I have dealt with you both and It is obvious that Mike’s leadership lacks any understanding and any care for the community of swimming – One example of this is that 18 months ago Mike had an opportunity to solve the lane space issues which as we all know holds many programmes around the country back, this was going to be a “nationwide” solution.

    A meeting was arranged with the “major players” of pool management. Mike and SNZ had, for the first time ever, the chance to have the “keys to all the doors”. Murray, you are also guilty thru a lack of accountability for you employee (Mike). You were told of this meeting, in fact you met the guy that could help SNZ over a few wines at last year’s SCAT conference, you also choose to turn a blind eye to a SNZ opportunity to advance our sport thru better lane space access, In fact it gets worse! Mike met these guys 4 months after that meeting (having promised to get back to us and didn’t) he couldn’t even remember the people he had met! Mike’s response when I put him on the spot and introduced him AGAIN was “oh…. that’s right, I remember, you want to sponsor SNZ?” I couldn’t help but laugh – Mike couldn’t even remember the meeting he had! It was extremely embarrassing for me, and we were all totally unimpressed with his lack of foresight and professionalism. Murray, you’re not much better I’m sorry to say because this was explained to you also, and you took no action – something we are use to seeing from you laterly.

    Time to be men and take the responsibility for your lack of leadership – Jan just did her job, you guys are the ones who didn’t put systems in place to protect your staff. Mike, Murray ITS TIME YOU STEP ASIDE! Man up!

  • Andrew Cozens

    Good news. I’ve been out of the sport for years now but looks like nothing much had changed in the last 8years. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards for swimming now!