Archive for July, 2011

Murray Coulter’s Future

Monday, July 11th, 2011

By David

The current Chairman of Surf Life Saving New Zealand, Graeme Cullen, has just sent the following letter to members of his organisation. The letter announces the resignation of the entire Board of Surf Life Saving New Zealand. Over the past two years this Board imposed a Surf version of Project Vanguard (Surf call it Project Groundswell). They increased staff numbers by 20%. They lost $1.3million and now they have done the decent thing and have resigned.

This is the future the Coulter gang spent a quarter of a million dollars pushing Swimming New Zealand toward. Well Murray Coulter – if you are so enamoured with what has happened in Surf Life Saving here is their Chairman’s letter. You should alter Surf to Swimming and send it to the membership of Swimming New Zealand. To salvage some small remnant of decency your Board should resign. This letter is a Swimwatch contribution to help you through the process.

Dear Surf Life Saving New Zealand Member,

I write to you concerned at where our organisation finds itself and am most disturbed by the recent media articles. They are not helping our organisation. So it is with heavy heart I advise that your total Board at its meeting last Saturday resolved to step down at the Annual General Meeting on 24 September so that fresh elections can be held.

I am pleased that we have found a strong leader in Pat Waite who has joined us as our Interim Chief Executive. Pat brings a steady hand on the organisation and in only a few weeks Pat has pulled the finances together and has built a true picture of our financial situation.

He has put in place tight controls and we face the new financial year with confidence and stability with an excellent management team each of whom presented their plans to the Board at Saturday’s meeting.

We were delighted at the level of thought and planning that had been committed and your directors came from the meeting with confidence that the management of core programmes and service delivery across of SLSNZ is in good shape.

The next round of Club Chairs meetings start in August and if there is time at these I encourage as many as possible to attend and hear of the plans that Pat and his team have put in place.

Amongst the many issues discussed at the meeting was the Centenary Exhibition and I must correct any misperception that I may have caused by my previous comments. The financial situation we are now dealing with is no reflection on those charged with the responsibility of planning and implementing the various activities including the exhibition itself. Any inference that may have been taken that they caused the financial situation was not intended and I apologise to them and any others who were involved. The reality however is that SLSNZ for whatever reason did not raise sufficient funds last year to support its activities. We mustn’t allow that to happen again.

I want to pay a particular tribute to Marilyn Moffatt and her role in delivering the Centenary programme which gave us pride in Surf Life Saving New Zealand and its accomplishments during the past 12 months. In addition I also want to recognise John O’Connell who was instrumental in securing State’s sponsorship and has been providing valuable support to Pat with the financial accounts, in his own time. They not only delivered a significant project but gave us pride in Surf Life Saving New Zealand and its accomplishments. I must also pay tribute to Mark Weatherall who after the CEO left gave his heart and soul in ensuring that gaps were covered. Indeed on his last day with us, I understand he worked until after midnight in completing tasks and lists for Pat and the others to follow up on.

It is with enormous pride and satisfaction that I have been your chairman for the past 7 years. In that time we have led the discussion, introduced Groundswell, attracted significant new sponsors and delivered such great programmes and services. We now have an organisation that is poised for even bigger things as it starts its second century! It has been a privilege to be part of such a fine organisation with wonderful caring people who have willingly given time to serve you as directors.

There is a price that each person who takes on a governance role pays and that is the impact on personal, family and business lives. It is a pity that there has been such negative energy given by a small number of members but that is democracy!. My thanks to those numerous members and clubs that have sent me and my fellow directors their support.

The Board will meet again on 13 August and then before stepping down as your directors will report to members on the past year at the Annual General Meeting on 24 September in Hamilton.

Further advice will come out from the Interim Chief Executive on the election process, where current directors can each independently stand for election, if they choose to, with all other open candidates. Advice will also be given shortly on the Annual Awards lunch which will be held after the AGM.

Wishing everyone a wonderful surf life saving season ahead.

Yours in surf

Graeme Cullen

Murray – the membership of Swimming New Zealand ask you to go. Leave now before those who care for Swimming New Zealand vote you out of office.

Teach Yourself to Lose

Monday, July 11th, 2011

By David

Barely a day goes by that Swimming New Zealand doesn’t take an action or issue an edict that fills me with disgust. I would have hoped that the involvement of Alison Fitch and Helen Norfolk in High Performance Governance might be the beginning of good things to come. Sadly though, Swimming New Zealand is getting worse. The presence of Norfolk and Fitch is providing cover for the Coulter gang. Byrne, Coulter, Cameron and Butler know that the membership of Swimming New Zealand respects these two ex-international swimmers. They know that New Zealand will cut the organization some slack while these two are involved. The Coulter gang also knows that these two are unlikely to have the experience or character or guile to identify, understand and battle the most dishonest administrators, I believe, I have ever encountered. Unwittingly Fitch and Norfolk have become facilitators for a bunch of crooks. Because of their presence the organization, they wanted to reform, is getting worse.

Last week Swimwatch reported on the effort being made by Swimming New Zealand to slip Jan Cameron onto an airplane bound for Shanghai. Cameron was about to skip the country on the taxpayer’s dollar. Fitch and Norfolk’s High Performance Governance Committee signed off on $3500 of travel costs for the woman that 80% of the people they represent have told us they never want to see anywhere near an international swimming competition ever again. Accepting a position on the High Performance Governance Committee meant being prepared to make tough decisions. We were let down on this occasion.

And this week the Coulter gang and the High Performance Governance Committee came up with a second bizarre decision. For some reason best known to Jan Cameron, the High Performance Centre has always wanted to send National entries for High Performance swimmers directly into Swimming New Zealand. Cameron, it seems, does not want to comply with Swimming New Zealand’s Regulations. The rest of us have to send our entries through our Regional office. Here is what the Regulation says, “Regions must submit entries for SNZ members. No club entries are permitted.”

That seems pretty simple but apparently it is far to menial for Jan Cameron’s chosen few. Along with her special uniforms and privileged seating Cameron continues her quest to divide and separate. Her latest effort at division was circulated this week. Now she wants to formalize a separate entry procedure for Millennium swimmers. Here is an edited version of the Swimming New Zealand email.

The Swimming New Zealand events team has been in discussions with the events advisory committee and SNZs high performance centre regarding the most convenient way for entries from HPC-based swimmers to be forwarded to Swimming New Zealand. The consensus was for all HPC-based swimmers’ entry forms for national competitions to be submitted to SNZ by the SNZ HPC.

All sorts of things are wrong with the email.

  1. Never, ever believe a thing Ross Butler tells you. At our meeting in Auckland a couple of weeks ago he assured me face to face that there was one standard in Swimming New Zealand. He was going to make sure Swimming New Zealand was “one team”. Last week he published the same message on Swimming New Zealand’s website. And this week he approved a privileged entry procedure for fourteen swimmers based on Auckland’s North Shore. While Butler and Cameron and Coulter are in charge there is no chance of SNZ being one team. Come to think of it, with values like they have I can’t imagine wanting to be on a team that has them as members.
  2. Why weren’t the Regions included in the discussions that led to this decision? Until now National entries have been processed through the Regions. This is evidentially going to change. Wouldn’t it have been proper and polite to involve the Regions in a decision that takes away a function they have always performed. Mind you, it is all fairly typical of the arrogance that Coulter has shown toward the Regions. I am certain he will pay for that one day soon.
  3. As for Fitch and Norfolk – their careers were blighted by the very disease they are transmitting to a new generation. I always thought and I still think that Norfolk could have won an Olympic 400 metre medley championship. But she was badly advised. She swam through an era characterised by all sorts of bad decisions. You would think that experience would have alerted her to decisions that were bad for a new generation of swimmers. It seems not. This is a bad decision and her stamp is all over it.
  4. Compare the principle behind Swimming New Zealand’s email to the decision taken by Arthur Lydiard when he was coaching the world’s best middle distance runners. He refused to let his runners apply for an Auckland record. A national record was the minimum standard. He did this to keep their feet on the ground; to make them work harder for a higher standard. Jan Cameron does not understand that principle. She wants Bell and company to be treated like Gods before they have won anything. No one deserves that. It is a terrible and abusive way to treat anyone. There is no need for them to win international swimming races. They have all the benefits already.
  5. The proposed change involves altering Swimming New Zealand’s regulations. Surely this must be more complicated than Kent Stead or Jan Cameron just saying, “Please note that this change will be reflected in the SNZ Regulations.” Isn’t there some procedure required, some approval to be obtained before Cameron can indulge in another small piece of empire building? A “law unto themselves” appears to be a phrase invented just with Swimming New Zealand in mind.

By itself this decision may seem like a small issue. What it represents though is huge. It separates and divides. It reinforces an environment of privilege on one hand and an underclass of serfdom on the other – them and us, fast and slow, good and don’t matter. Its effect on the privileged is just as bad. Ideas above your station are the kiss of death for an international athlete. Just ask Helen Norfolk and Alison Fitch.

SPARC, For The Love Of God, Do Something

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

By David

The story I am about to relate is based on rumour and gossip. I could very well have facts that are wrong, details that are missed and information that is exaggerated. However even if the news out of Swimming New Zealand today is only half true, it is a colossal scandal.

The last time Cameron went to a major swim meet was the New Delhi Commonwealth Games. With Swimming New Zealand’s blessing she spent most of her time commentating for her husband’s television channel. Nepotism is a Cameron family tradition – husband, wife, daughter and son; oh, what a tangled web. I doubt that her handsome Swimming New Zealand pay was docked while she toiled to boost her husband’s television ratings. I’m told that the New Delhi authorities complained to the New Zealand Olympic Association about Cameron’s attempts to use her press credentials to gain access to the New Zealand swimmers.

The result, in New Delhi, was that Swimming New Zealand paid for Cameron’s absentee management and Sky Television hired a bloody hopeless commentator. I would have thought anyone with an ounce of sense in Swimming New Zealand management would have said, “That’s the last time Cameron is pulling that trick.” But life continues to surprise. Just how wrong can you be?

The Ineson Report comes and goes and bugger me Cameron is on her way to Shanghai. Hubby Cameron from Sky Sport has come to the party and Wifey Cameron will be streaming into every New Zealand sitting room telling us all about the swimming. And while she is making a hash of that, remember she will still be drawing her Swimming New Zealand pay. But worse she will be hovering; a Sky sponsored poltergeist tearing the heart out of the New Zealand swim team. Remember 80% of the swim team told Ineson this woman was useless. Now she is back. Imagine how those swimmers feel about having those red rimmed glasses drilling into their soul. I can’t stand it and have cancelled my Sky contract.

From what I’ve heard, Sky Television may have given Cameron a job but Swimming New Zealand has been complicit. I’m told Swimming New Zealand arranged Cameron’s visa and have included her name on a list of Swimming New Zealand people going to Shanghai. Three weeks after she should have been booted out of swimming and she’s off to the World Championships on a visa provided by the Coulter gang.

Except this time the High Performance Governance Committee must carry the bulk of the blame. They met me in an Auckland pub. They asked me to believe they would deliver a new beginning. They asked for my tolerance. Instead they have delivered the same old, same old; Cameron on the plane, with the team, on her way to China. I guess that’s about all you can expect from Ross Butler, insurance salesman. While I expected no better from Butler I am disappointed in Norfolk and Fitch. Norfolk promised much as a representative of swimmers who desperately needed representation. Instead she fell for the oldest management trick of them all and accepted a job on a management committee. You don’t believe it’s a management committee? Why the hell else is it called “Governance” then? Helen and Alison, you are now responsible for Cameron still being on the Swimming New Zealand payroll. You are responsible for her being in Shanghai. You are compromised beyond belief. You cannot play both sides of the management fence.

And SPARC, Swimming New Zealand is going about its business as usual, as though your Ineson Report did not exist; as though your money was theirs. What Swimming New Zealand did in the open yesterday, it does today behind the smokescreen of its High Performance Governance Committee. SPARC, you are being conned by guys who are masters of that skill. You proved beyond any doubt that Cameron was a disaster. Barely a person you interviewed thought she was up to the job. Coach Regan can’t stand her. A fact that’s hardly surprising given the way she has treated him. And yet in spite of all that there she will be, in the middle of China, in the heart of the New Zealand swim team. Whatever way you look at it, Peter Miskimmin, your organization is being treated with derision.

It is impossible to imagine how any organization could work so hard to screw the chances of its best athletes. Ross Butler announces on the Swimming New Zealand website that, “They travel as one team, supporting each other,” and at the same time he has Mark O’Connor down at the Chinese Embassy buying Cameron a visa. Is Butler intentionally dishonest or is he so stupid he does not understand what 80% of his members are saying; are pleading for him to recognize. Cameron is as divisive as all can be. There is no chance, none at all, of the New Zealand team being “one team” while Cameron is within a hundred miles of the Jade Buddha Temple. As they say in the USA, “Wow, that Swimming New Zealand sure is a piece of work.”

And They Call It High Performance

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

By David

Swimming New Zealand continues to lurch from one disaster to another. I imagine there are a few Swimwatch readers who think I pick on a group of fine administrators doing their best to run the sport of swimming in New Zealand. I’d love to know how they explain the high performance failures coming out of Swimming New Zealand today. The place is a shambles and it’s getting worse.

I was delighted to see that recent readership statistics are reporting a new regular Swimwatch reader from Lausanne, Switzerland. I have no idea of the identity of this new Swiss reader. However Lausanne is the home town of FINA. I am hoping someone in their Avenue de l’Avant-Poste office has thought the unease expressed in Swimwatch is important enough to investigate. FINA have every right to be concerned. Their New Zealand branch is a disgusting confusion of lies, dishonesty and incompetence.

When I met Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance Committee I undertook to refrain from commenting on their work until they reported to the membership. Well today they posted their report on the Swimming New Zealand website. So now, I guess, it’s okay to subject them to some critical analysis.

When they first posted this report I took the precaution of taking a copy. Swimming New Zealand alter what they say so often it is important to have a personal record. Sure enough a short time after I took my copy, their report was altered. I wondered what had changed. What was wrong with the first post? My guess is that Hayley Palmer was left out of the World Championship 4×100 freestyle relay. Palmer was a clear second in the 100 freestyle at the New Zealand Trials. She holds the New Zealand record in the event and Swimming New Zealand droped her from the relay. What on earth is going on? Was Hayley dropped because she left Jan Cameron’s son’s squad to prepare with Randy Rees in Florida? Swimming New Zealand will probably be forced to include Palmer in the relay but the damage to the team and the swimmer is serious. Whoever made that mistake should be gone.

Anyway, why is a report like this being posted under the name of the High Performance Governance Committee? I though their purpose was to look at the future of high performance swimming; to examine barriers to competitive success. This report looks like the Committee has decided to run the show. Begs the question of what Cameron is being paid to do these days. If Ross Butler has assumed the role of wishing the team well, of announcing relay teams and team staff; if Mark O’Connor is replacing Cameron as Team Leader in Shanghai what is there left for Cameron to do? It would not surprise me if she is sitting back, doing nothing, cashing her pay check and passing everything off as Butler’s baby. You see, it’s her way out. If things go badly, if there are any problems, she can say, “Not my problem. Talk to Ross Butler or Helen Norfolk. They are in charge now.” If things go well she will say it was the result of all the preparation undertaken on her watch. Either way Cameron wins.

How come Mark O’Connor has been appointed Team Manager? I know he has an important administration role in the Swimming New Zealand office, but what does he know about swim team management? Has he ever been a swim team manager? Or is the 2011 World Championships his first experience? Mind you, whatever his experience, he will probably perform better than a manager that spends her time commenting for her husband’s television channel or a leader who chooses a game of netball ahead of the swimming preliminaries.

I am always a touch uneasy when someone finds it necessary to publically proclaim their love or unity or fidelity. Butler’s report contains all of these. For example, why is it necessary for him to make this declaration – “they travel as one team, supporting each other, and are well supported by their coaches and officials.” The reason Butler has to say all this stuff is because it’s not true. The reports of tension between Scott Cameron and Mark Regan are sufficiently numerous that they must contain some truth. Anyone with Regan’s experience must see Scott as privileged issue promoted way beyond his ability or experience. Besides it is not in the Cameron matriarch’s nature to promote unity. If this team is one team, supporting each other, it will be the first New Zealand swim team to achieve that status in over ten years.

The ratio of coaches and officials on the Shanghai team is an impressive nine for fourteen swimmers. I personally think the biomechanics specialist and the performance analyst are a waste of money. However I also concede there is a lot of support for this type of service. The presence of nine officials on the team did encourage me to wonder at the staff numbers Cameron had at her Millennium Institute. This is what I found. The Millennium Institute website lists 19 swimmers as members of the High Performance program. However we know that Palmer trains in Florida. For 18 swimmers then, they list 19 coaches and staff. Now that is bloody ridiculous. Makes you wonder how Lydiard and Jelley ever won New Zealand those eight Olympic medals.

One other quote in the Committee’s report attracted my attention. Referring to his High Performance committee Ross Butler said – “mindful of its commitment to identifying and removing barriers that might impede our New Zealand swimmers from achieving success.” Let there be no misunderstanding, even if Swimming New Zealand does not know, certainly every region, every club and the public of New Zealand know that the names of the barriers impeding our swimmers from achieving success are Coulter, Byrne and Cameron. I’m just afraid Butler hasn’t got the guts to do anything about them. If that is the case the Regions have a grave responsibility to protect the organization they own.

How Could You

Monday, July 4th, 2011

By David

It would be remiss for Swimwatch not to mention the biggest story to affect our team in a very long time. This is how reported the story.

A teenage swimmer has won a legal battle after his parents tried to stop him representing New Zealand because they disapproved of his American Olympic gold medallist girlfriend. Justin Wright, 17, met Rhi Jeffrey, 24, at the West Auckland Aquatic Club, and the pair struck up a romantic relationship, The Herald on Sunday reported today. Jeffrey, who won gold at Athens in 2004, moved to Auckland to try to qualify for next year’s Olympics in London, under her Kiwi coach David Wright.

But Justin’s parents, Paul and Sandy, were not happy about the pair’s relationship, reportedly because of the age difference, and sent emails to club members, demanding the club coach intervene. They even withdrew their consent for Justin to compete at Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) events, and scuppered his chances of qualifying for the Swimming World Cup in November.

But this week Justin won the backing of a court to be a member of SNZ against his parents’ wishes, in what is believed to be a legal first. In Auckland District Court on Thursday Judge Graham Hubble granted permission for Justin to enter into the contract with SNZ. The application was not opposed.

As Justin’s coach, there were two aspects of this case that affected me. First – when Justin’s mother asked me to intervene in the relationship, what were my coaching responsibilities. Second – when Justin’s parents refused to approve his Swimming New Zealand membership and Swimming New Zealand decided to deny him membership, what were my coaching responsibilities.

In the first case I got an email from Justin’s mother asking me to get involved. She argued that I was Rhi’s coach. I had imported Rhi and was her “guardian”. I had a responsibility to provide guidance to a person who was stealing her son from the “cradle”. Rhi, she said, “should come with a Govt. warning”. I decided to seek some advice and made a visit to the Henderson police and called an ex-West Auckland Aquatics Club member, national swimming representative and now prominent Auckland criminal lawyer, Johnny Munro. In both cases I asked, “Is there anything illegal in Rhi and Justin’s relationship?” Was there any aspect of their relationship that should concern me as their coach? In both cases I was told that, no, there was nothing illegal going on and they both viewed this type of thing as a family matter.

I wrote back to Sandy, that’s Justin’s mother, and said that while I understood her feelings, my role as their swim coach did not include getting involved in personal relationships. That would be most improper of any coach. Promoting or terminating personal relationships was the responsibility of family members, guidance councillors and religious providers of pastoral care. It was not in the realm of someone whose role in life was to decide what was meant by a good aerobic build-up.

Sandy, not content with my reply, wrote to the West Auckland Aquatics Club and Auckland Swimming; hoping for a more sympathetic and emotional hearing. Both organizations investigated her allegations. Auckland Swimming even took advice from a child protection professional and found no grounds for disciplinary action. Sandy was sent replies that confirmed the view that this was a personal and family matter.

Sandy should have let the matter drop there, but she was on a mission and wrote to Swimming New Zealand, where she got a sympathetic hearing. The combination of David Wright and Swimwatch and Auckland Swimming and its opposition to Project Vanguard was too much for the Coulter gang to resist. Swimming New Zealand decided that the law preventing youths under eighteen entering into a contract without parental consent was sufficient grounds to decline Justin’s membership and banned him from the organization. Here are the first two paragraphs of their rather officious letter to Claudia Hill, the President of the West Auckland Aquatic Swim Team.

Further to our recent telephone conversation, I am writing to confirm that Justin Wright is no longer a member of Swimming New Zealand, Swimming Auckland or the West Auckland Aquatics swimming club.

As discussed Justin must by law be 18 to sign a contract that includes signing the Swimming New Zealand application form. As his legal guardians, Justin’s parents signed his membership application form on 26 February 2010 and he joined West Wave Aquatics. His parents have subsequently asked West Wave Aquatics to withdraw his membership and the club is obliged to do so.

As is normal with correspondence from Swimming New Zealand this one is full of errors. The most serious in this case is getting the name of our club wrong. They twice refer to us as West Wave Aquatics when in fact we are West Auckland Aquatics. You would think SNZ would know the name of the club that gave swimming athletes such as Herring, Boyle, Munro, Anderson, Steel, Sanders, Hall and Newcombe.

But more interesting is SNZ’s sudden conversion to the word of the law. This is the organization that without any care for due process or honesty, changed the minutes of an Annual Meeting, suspended Tracy Freil without a hearing and threatened to suspend Toni Jeffs for accepting sponsorship from a nightclub. But because it’s David Wright and Swimwatch, because Justin swims for Auckland, the law suddenly becomes all important. Justin can pay the price while Swimming New Zealand plays politics with one of their more talented members. They really are a bunch of creeps.

Well the law can work both sides of the fence. We were fortunate to find a good lawyer, Jeremy Sutton, who took Justin’s case to the Auckland District Court. Justice Hubble took less time than it takes Justin to swim 100 meters butterfly to find in Justin’s favour. Auckland’s best 17 year old butterfly swimmer was back in the Winter Championships. Was Justin right to take his case to the court? Of course he was – he won didn’t he?

Justin’s case is an example of two things; a mother who should have taken the time to consider the long term consequences of her crusade and a national sporting organization who should learn from the vastly superior management skills shown by its regional and club administrators. Not everybody agrees of course. One Auckland administrator was wandering around the pool last weekend muttering about, “history repeating itself”. Undoubtedly that was a reference to the high profile period swimming had during the Toni Jeffs era. I do hope there are no domestic skeletons in that administrator’s closet. Another woman accosted me with the name of this story – “how could you?” Well, dear lady, the reason I could is because the law of the land said it was the right thing to do and because I thought Justin winning a silver and two bronze medals at the Auckland Winter Championships was a good way to spend his weekend. But I guess none of that matters much to the likes of you.

It’s off the serious point of this post, but I have to tell you that some of the talkback and internet comments have been hilarious. One well meaning listener asked for divine help, “Lust blinds the truth. Godly love is true love. How many people know that love?” Of course Justin’s 100 butterfly was seen by others as the end of the world, “The Judge who allowed this just took another block from what little foundation we have left of any morality and decency in our nation.” I even read that, “Shagging an older woman obviously improves your swimming – go for it boy!!” I think that might be taking these events too far. And finally Justin’s request for permission to swim was seen by one prophet as, “Just a pity the judicial system in this country is so corrupt.” There is nothing it seems as strange as folk.