Waimarama To Hamilton

By David

When my daughter Jane was at high school in New Zealand her favourite subject was English. In the national School Certificate English exam she scored 96%. Her short stories were published in various New Zealand publications and won a collection of encyclopaedias for her high school in a British Council international competition.

When I began writing for Swimwatch I studied Jane’s stories and asked her advice on how to improve my literary efforts. She told me to never begin a story with the sentence, “We packed up the car and went to Waimarama.” For those of you unfamiliar with Waimarama, it is a beach in Hawke’s Bay that the internet tells me is a “golden, sandy surf beach close to shops and takeaways.” She said it was a boring start to a story that would inevitably be equally boring. With all that, by way of introduction, I now want to tell you a story about what happened in Hamilton last weekend.

Mike Byrne packed up the car and went to Hamilton. His purpose was to attend the New Zealand Inter-Secondary Schools Swimming Championships. Two of the swimmers I help were competing in the meet. A few other friends were lucky enough to be chosen by Mike Byrne to hear his tale of Swimming New Zealand woe. He really should know better.

With up to 1,000 New Zealanders now reading Swimwatch every day Byrne should realize that most groups he talks to will include a Swimwatch mole. In Hamilton that was certainly true. Within hours I was called and told that Mike Byrne had just told my friends the following story.

According to Byrne, Brian Palmer, the CEO of the Auckland Region was opposed to Project Vanguard because if Project Vanguard succeeded Brian Palmer would be out of a job. Brian Palmer was entirely motivated by self interest. Byrne also said, Bronwen Radford was leading the sport into a catastrophic position that would certainly mean SPARC would withdraw its funding. Radford was an inexperienced Regional administrator meddling in affairs she did not understand and was ill equipped to handle. And finally the Auckland Region was acting dishonestly by registering learn to swim swimmers as Swimming New Zealand members. Auckland’s sole motive was to increase the Region’s voting power at Annual and Special General Meetings. Auckland was treating New Zealand’s other Regions with contempt and dishonour.

When you listen to this sort of stuff, you can’t help but wonder whether there is any limit to Byrne’s fraudulent claims. Take the Brian Palmer story. I have been to four Project Vanguard events put on by Brian Palmer and the Auckland Region. Not once have I detected any semblance of self interest in his presentations. Besides, Brian Palmer is employed by the Auckland Region to look after its affairs. I’m pretty sure Auckland will always choose to look after its own affairs, rather than trust anything to those who have made a ruinous mess of running Swimming New Zealand. The Ineson Report was written about Mike Byrne’s world, not Brian Palmer’s. The real danger in Project Vanguard is that its progress could cause Brian Palmer such despair that he looks elsewhere for employment. That would be a tragic loss for swimming in New Zealand. The departure of Mike Byrne on the other hand would be progress for us all.

The one insight provided by Byrne’s comment about Brian Palmer is that there is a clear intention to “rape and pillage” Regional staff if Byrne gets the opportunity. Byrne can’t wait for the chance to get even with Brian Palmer. A Swimming New Zealand’s takeover of the Regions would certainly be hostile. At least that’s what Mike Byrne says.

As for the claim that Bronwen Radford is about to cost us all SPARC’s funding – that is just not true. If you said that Mike Byrne – you are a two faced shameful liar. I have been to meetings, read news items and studied reports from the CEO of SPARC. Not once have I heard Miskimmin link the efforts of Radford to reform the Swimming New Zealand Board with the amount of SPARC’s funding. In fact on several occasions I’ve heard Miskimmin deny that there is any connection. I have heard him link the amount of funding SPARC gives swimming to Byrne’s performance. Byrne is responsible for a failing High Performance unit. That is certainly Miskimmin’s concern. Byrne needs to get out of the bloody way so that those who know what it takes to win a swimming race can do it – and save SPARC’s funding in the process.

While I am on the subject of SPARC’s funding, I wrote recently that all SPARC’s $1.6 million was spent on the Cameron and Byrne’s high performance empire. I was wrong. Evidently SPARC set aside $150,000 for “grass roots” swimming. But do you know what Byrne spent it on – Project Vanguard, that’s what. While my club and most clubs in the country had kids that could barely afford training fees, Mike Byrne was spending “grass roots” money on airfares and hotels to cart Hemsworth and her Project Vanguard side show around the country. And he says Bronwen Radford is putting swimming’s funding at risk. He is a sick, sick joke.

My Waikato friends were quite shaken by Byrne’s revelation that Auckland was registering learn to swim members. Could this be true? Was Auckland up to no good? The answer is that, yes it was true and no Auckland was acting just fine. For years many New Zealand Regions have registered learn to swim students as Swimming New Zealand members. That never worried Byrne when it was Mark Berge’s tame Wellington Region that was doing the registering. It was all good fun then. Byrne could and did talk up the healthy increase in numbers. But when Auckland decided to follow Berge’s example and register a very small proportion of its learn to swim community, it all became a problem. The new voting college accurately reflects the number of swimmers in each Region. In the year I have been in Auckland I have observed closely the work of those that run the affairs of the Auckland Region. Auckland is conducting itself just fine. They are good people, trying to reform a broken head office. They can be trusted. For someone from Central Otago I do not say that lightly.

After the Ineson Report it is Byrne who is in danger of losing his job. It is Byrne who has put SPARC’s funding at risk. And it is Byrne who taught us to register learn to swim students. Check it out, before you believe a word he says.

  • Rhi Jeffrey

    Wow this is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe more people don’t run up to this man and give him a good hard punch in the nuts. I have met Brian Palmer SEVERAL times and not once did I get the impression he has done ANYTHING in his own best interest. In fact, he has gotten himself into sticky situations a few times in order to do what he thinks is right for the sport. Of all of the swimming people (other than David of course) I have met here, he holds the values that are the closest to that of USA Swimming. He knows what he is doing. He should be listened to more and his opinion should be valued very highly. Unfortunately I have not had the pleasure to meet Bronwen Radford, but I trust David’s opinion most about people’s character and have read the swimwatch articles on her for myself. She is in league with Palmer as well. Byrne is seriously the biggest moron I have ever heard of in my life. Shame shame shame on him for ruining one of the greatest sports in the world. SPARC, what are you doing?! HELP US!

  • Sharon

    Yep, that’s exactly what he was saying, and to complete strangers as well.

  • Northern Swimmer

    For those wishing to rival “We packed up the car and went to Waimarama”


  • Old Boxer

    I have just read this on the SNZ website:


    This letter was disclosed only in response to a very pointed and good letter from Swimming Southland asking for evidence (written) in support of these threats about SPARC funding being removed because of these troublesome regions. This was the best that SNZ could come up with. No mention of troublesome regions at all.

    Am I the only one who is getting really tired of the constant threat from these people in SNZ about SPARC funding? What is it that I am missing here?

    SNZ under their current management and governance were placed under review by SPARC. They failed the review. SPARC has clearly told them they need to implement the recommendations of the report and if they do not do it then they do not have any money after September. Read the letter. That is pretty simple. As far as I can tell there is nothing there about the regions of SNZ causing problems for that funding. SNZ have done that all by themselves. And yet Mr MacDonald is out there at every step with Coulter and Byrne trying to blame the regional stakeholders for the impending funding disaster.

    What can I see has been done since the review came out in June? Nothing! All the key players who the review identifies are still running the orchestra and there is no sign of them going anywhere. Seriously, how long does it take to remove three people who the SPARC report condemned as being total failures?

    Now we are hearing (via your entertaining article above) that Mr Byrne is running around the countryside blaming Bronwen Radford for the fact that SNZ are about to lose SPARC’s funding. I simply do not get this at all. Good on Bronwen Radford for doing all she is – I would think that SPARC will be recommending her for a special award because she is leading the charge for SNZ to make the changes that are necessary preludes for the changes that the review required.

    It seems fairly obvious to me that this board either does not want to or is not capable of making those changes on their own and that if they do not then they have no funding after September. Simple solution – change the board and put in place new leadership who will remove the General Manager PP and the CEO. Of course changing the Board gets rid of the other one identified by the report as being to blame, being the Chairman himself.

    A new board will simply need to have the gumption to do what it was obvious that this board does not have the courage to do. Of course a new board will need to have good people because they will need to make some pretty important and better executive appointments than have happened in the past.

    It seems to me as though the only ones who are spinning hard for their jobs at present are Mike Byrne and Murray Coulter. Jan Cameron obviously feels that with these two still in place that she is safe so I do not think she is too worried at present. Maybe that will change when the board changes.

  • James T

    I think it was one of your readers, maybe Northern Swimmer, who mentioned awhile back that they were concerned about the deadline for SNZ’s proposed restructuring of the HP programme was up, and that this Board were still pushing through their plans. And since you mentioned Auckland, I thought I would check their website and I noticed the following: http://www.akswim.co.nz/site/auckswim/files/Submissions%20-%20Proposed%20staffing%20realignment%20HP%20Unit.pdf Well it seems as though someone in Auckland has been busy and it is great to see some new ideas being put forward.

    I couldn’t help but wince and chuckle at the same time about some of the very direct language they used in response to SNZ’s own proposal. That will make for some uncomfortable reading for Sharon’s Koru and Murray Coulter! Great reading though and some very good points about High Performance.

    I do wonder how much notice anybody in SNZ will take of it all, or will it be rejected out of hand just simply because it came from one of the regions – of course, what do the regions know about anything? Right?

  • Chris

    David – I think we all know that Mike Byrne is just a fool and anyone that gives serious consideration to anything that comes out of his mouth is as much a fool as he is.

    What I do know is that Bronwyn Radford is a well respected and an extremely experienced operator down in the central regions (and in fact throughout the country) amongst many who have been in this sport a long time, and she is no fool – unlike the SNZ CEO. I do not know Mr Palmer, but I hear many good reports of what he has achieved in Auckland, and from the few times of late that I have been up in Auckland, namely the excellent swimming meet for Christchurch (which incidentally, there was not one person from SNZ in attendance), this is clearly a very different Auckland to that of the past – one that seems to be prepared to look beyond the Bombay Hills.

    But if you want to see a glaring contrast of what SNZ has, and what Auckland has, just look at the SNZ website.

    So SNZ decided that they would publish the remits for the AGM. Great! So out of the 10 remits, 7 were from Auckland, submitted by Brian Palmer; 2 from Bay of Plenty; and 1 from Waikato.


    Brilliant remits, all of them, and it is abundantly clear, certainly from both the Auckland and BOP remits – they were professional, clear and logical, and obviously prepared in collaboration with sound legal advice. Certainly my early reading of these remits is that they are well thought out and will help fix some of the problems. Clearly there is a plan and the AGM is only the first part of that plan. I would hope that all the regions, and not just the coalition partners, would support these remits.

    But SNZ just couldn’t help themselves. Byrne sends out a chirlish covering letter called “Summary of Remits for SNZ AGM” which was not a summary of the remits at all. It is a document of blatant spin in which he attempts to be clever, and giving the reasons why SNZ recommends that all the remits should be opposed.


    Some of their reasons for opposing the remits were either out and out lies, or just clutching at straws. There was nothing constructive in what Byrne wrote – in fact, he clearly wasn’t writing on his own. All Byrne’s letter demonstrated was more evidence of why these people have to go.

    I’m wondering David if at some time you might wish to do an analysis of these remits and what they will mean, as we gear up for a very interesting AGM indeed.

  • Paul Newnham

    Chris thanks for posting the links above.
    The memo reads like a counter blog to swimwatch!!

    Every remit recommendation has been used as an opportunity to reinforce the spin messages we have seen coming from this lot in the last few weeks. Rudderless, Too expensive, loss of funding, Current board are great, SGM’s cost too much…..Blah Blah Blah. People, don’t fall victim to this blatant misuse of SNZ letterhead. This list of recommendations was written to influence the apathetic or those intimidated by the board. It was written to try and steal your vote. Democracy dictates you should be allowed to read the remits unedited and make your own decision. Please ignore any advice from anyone with an agenda (read with a big fat salary to loose) and ensure you sort through the emotion and gather the facts.
    The recent letter posted here from Bronwyn Radford is a case in point. While long the letter is a collection of facts as gathered by her over a long time.
    We all need to do the same and ensure our regional leaders are also gathering the facts.
    Be strong, Dig your heels in, Stay the course………The opposition are!!!

  • Tom

    I find SNZ’s ‘summary’ of the remits to be bizarre, to say the least. Probably because it isn’t really a summary, so much as a statement of how they intend to proceed with business as normal. Their contempt for their own stakeholders is remarkable. If only they were as interested in the future of New Zealand swimming, as they are in protecting their pay check.

  • Northern Swimmer

    Thank you Chris for posting the links regarding remits and Mr Byrne’s summary of the remits. All Swimwatch readers should read both these documents. However, if you do not have time, Byrne’s advice can be easily summarised in the following 10 words:

    No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

    Could anyone out there with legal or governance experience explain why it is inappropriate to put a no confidence remit in the board to an AGM (My reading of the first BOP remit), yet entirely appropriate to do so at a SGM? Surely the same delegates with the same voting powers and intentions will be at both?

    I question the remits by Auckland seeking to limit the length of service for elected, and appointed, directors. Simply because of disaffection with the performance of some current board members we should not shoot ourselves in the foot by limiting the service of all board members. It should be noted that even with Bill Matson’s untimely passing, he was involved in swimming administration for more than four decades. I see no reason to restrict the expertise and ability of someone like him to 8 years.

    It is also worth reading the recently posted North Shore letter:
    It seems not all are supportive of the Coalition.
    This will get messy.

    Regarding ‘threats’ of SPARC withdrawing funding, the correspondence from Peter Miskimmin to Mr Coulter in June 2011

    and December 2010, but labelled as October 2010

    do not mention funding being dependent on accord between the Board and Regions.

    From SPARC’s High Performance Strategy of September 2010 their mission is to have: “More New Zealanders winning on the world stage”. The $1,650,000 per annum which Swimming New Zealand receives for high performance relates solely to its performance in relation to this mission.
    The High Performance page of the SNZ website breaks this funding down into four main areas:
    – core funding
    – sports science and medicine funding through NZAS
    – “at risk” funding relating to Pinnacle event performances, and
    – Performance Enhancement Grants paid directly to athletes successful at Pinnacle events.
    There has always been the risk that SPARC would withdraw some of its funding if performances at a Pinnacle event were not satisfactory. No where can I find what Swimming’s targets were for this year. Or any other years.

    The difference now is that SPARC is saying the level of funding after 30 September is to be assessed based on:
    i) results at the recent World Championships, and
    ii) the outcomes of our high performance review.

    Stability of the Board is not being considered.

    The success of Project Vanguard is not being considered.

    The harmony of the Regions with the Board is not being considered.

    Finally I would like to draw attention to the damning statistics of the Ineson Report:
    91% of those interviewed attributed the poor culture at the HP Centre as a
    significant barrier to success at London.
    83% criticised the leadership of SNZ and the HP programme at 3 critical levels.

    86 people were spoken to.

    This means that only 8 people interviewed thought that there was not a poor culture at the High Performance Centre, or thought that it would not be a significant barrier to success at London.
    It also means that only 15 people interviewed were not critical of the leadership and HP programme at the 3 levels.

    It is worth noting that 15 of those spoken to were SNZ board members (past or present), SNZ management/staff, or fulfilled other roles within SNZ (team managers, selectors).

    Sincerely yours,


  • Tom

    Thank you Northern Swimmer for your enlightening post. It hadn’t occurred to me around 15 of those interviewed by Ineson are current or former employees of SNZ. So, perhaps we could say 100% of people not paid by SNZ were critical of the leadership of SNZ and the HP programme at three levels.

    I find the performance of Mike Byrne in Hamilton fascinating, as the same thing happened during Surf Lifesaving’s Project Groundswell. The ‘troublesome’ Northern Region and its opposition to Groundswell was criticized by people within SLSNZ as self-interested. Northern Region staff were only worried about losing their jobs, they didn’t care about the future of the movement – or so the accusation went.

    Ultimately, several good staff from Northern Region chose to leave. Others found their roles no longer required. In the meantime, SLSNZ has lost two directors, its entire board, its revenue and credibility. All rather sad.

  • Chris

    Hi Northern Swimmer

    Excellent comments. But I just want to make a comment about the North Shore letter that went up today – actually, I only noticed it when I had a call from some very good friends up in Auckland who have one of their youngest at NSS. They were furious their board sends a letter criticising their region for supposedly not representing the region’s view, whereas in reality, the same letter does not reflect the view of their very own club membership! They said that they and many others were very supportive of the stance that their region and others were taking.

    So SNZ have decided to play dirty! They are throwing up all correspondence (selective I am sure) in a so-called effort to be transparent. This is nothing of the sort. It is nothing other than the same dirty tactics of “divide and rule”, divide the clubs against each other, divide the clubs against the regions, divide the regions against each other, and when the dust settles, the cockroaches and rats are what’s left to carry on as usual. But I do think we are seeing the fag end of the dying Cameron regime and people who have pandied to her over the years are seeing a shift – and they don’t like it.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are many good people at NSS, but I do get a sense from what I am told that their Chairman is way out of touch. I’m sorry, but anyone that signs their name “Dr”, who is not a medical MD is just a pompous b******. Certainly convention would suggest (well, old-school convention at least) that if your doctorate is not medical that you sign your name with “PhD”. And I think that pretty much sums up his letter really – just a pompous arrogant b*******.

  • Sensible Swimming

    Northern, I think can help with some of your questions.

    An AGM is a very scripted process. This is a point Mrs Radford made in her letter.

    While there is an intoxication to the concept of a no-confidence motion there is no legal effect nor is there a requirement for a board to act on such a motion. A no confidence motion in a government does not in and of itself require a government to resign – it is only when it is accompanied by a “supply” motion (as in “confidence and supply”) that a government cannot continue because they then do not have control over the Treasury to allow them to spend money.

    A recent example of the failure of a “no-confidence” motion was the impeachment (effectively a vote of no-confidence) of Bill Clinton as President – there was a victory of sorts to his opponents in as much as he received a bloody nose, but it did not force him to stand down.

    Now back to SNZ. There is no provision in the SNZ constitution as it presently stands to force a board (or its members as individuals) to stand down. The reality is therefore that a no-confidence motion is quite meaningless. The Bay of Plenty motion as I read it is not a vote of no-confidence, it is rather about putting in place the tools which do not presently exist to allow for the removal of a board or its members. What we are seeing is that those members clearly show no present inclination to go anywhere and they also clearly know that there are no tools presently available to force them to resign.

    As I read each of the remits to which you refer they are all obviously intended to address deficiencies that relate to the present constitution under which the sport is governed. Lets remember that changes to the constitution must first be registered before they are effective. That will be the reason why Mrs Radford suggests that an SGM will follow the AGM. They obviously want the tools before they use them. Well thought out it seems to me.

    Limitation of service. Interesting thoughts about Bill Matson. There are many political models but it is a rare politician who does not lose touch with the people who they represent over time. The Americans limit presidential service for that reason. We can all also remember governments who get very arrogant and out of touch after too long in office. There are many ways someone like Bill Matson served the sport. I do not think his service would have been diminished at all by taking a break from a particular governance function for a year which is how I read the limitation being sought. If the fire of enthusiasm is still burning after a year out of office then a member who has been stood down can place themselves for election again. In the between times they have had an opportunity to reconnect with their club and other volunteers and to re-engage with what the aspirations of their constituents are now.

    The Bill Matson I observed was a man who was very happy to work on pool deck and to contribute in ways other than the exercise of power. I do not think he would have been concerned about an occasional break in high level elected service during his long career to allow him to re-energise and reconnect. That is in effect what I saw him do and was one of the things that made him so greatly valued and appreciated.

    I don’t have the benefit of the full picture here, but those are my observations and interpretations from the questions you raise having made reference back to the various documents.

    You also refer to SPARC’s funding commitments and the threats relating to the same. I think I read these documents in the same way that you do. The funding continues if SNZ delivers (Ineson report, medals etc) – if they do not, then the funding stops. That seems simple to me.

  • Sharon

    Dr Phil – bahahaha

  • Chris

    Dr Phil, indeed!

    At least good ole Humphrey would never dream of patronising us by calling himself Dr. Pullon when he’s not at his day job – and he’s a REAL doctor!!