Antares Place Behind Closed Doors

By David

The title of this post is not original. It is taken from the name of a popular TV mini-series, “Washington Behind Closed Doors”; the story of a power-hungry United States President, and the men he surrounded himself with in order to keep his hold on power. The Washington story was based on a book about the Nixon administration written by John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s council and Assistant for Domestic Affairs.

For some time I have expressed the view that the new Swimming New Zealand is worse than the Cameron/Byrne version. The sport of Swimming appears to have lurched out of the frying pan, into the fire. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the public record of the organization’s decision making. In the Byrne era the minutes of every Board Meeting were published on the Swimming New Zealand website. Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand publishes nothing. As I said, Antares Place behind closed doors.

Please don’t think Swimwatch is going soft on the Byrne and Cameron period. In those days the Board Minutes were often late and their accuracy was not always the best. But the Minutes were available. They were posted on the website. Members of the sport had a record they could read and gain some understanding of how the Board arrived at its decisions.

Those days have gone. There is no place for, “better late than never”, in the new Swimming New Zealand. Never alone will do just fine. The impression of arrogant distain is overwhelming. Do the inhabitants of Antares Place really believe we have no right to know about the Board’s deliberations? Do they think we are too stupid to understand the Board’s decisions? Are they scared of our judgment? Are they trying to hide something? Why do they hide what they are doing from the membership?

Because we do want to know. We want to read the Board minutes. We want to see and have on file a record of what the Board of the new Swimming New Zealand decide. We are interested. And so Messrs Layton and Renford put the minutes back on the website. Stop treating every member of the sport as a mushroom – keeping us in the dark and feeding us shit.

Actually responsibility for the secrecy of the Swimming New Zealand Board meetings may go further up than Layton and Renford. In the new Swimming New Zealand I suspect lots of things go further up than those two. I am no expert in the analysis of sporting websites, but I have searched through the main sports that Miskimmin has reviewed and brought under the control of Sport New Zealand; rowing, canoeing, cycling and swimming. I can’t find a Board minute in any of them.

I have been told that Miskimmin is a political animal, well skilled in covering his tracks. It is difficult to avoid the thought that perhaps his political acumen has included ordering or suggesting the sports of cycling, swimming, canoeing and rowing keep their Board discussions and decisions confidential.

Whatever the motivation, however secrecy became the norm, whoever was responsible, the end result has been bad for sport. Open government works best and the Miskimmin sporting regime is certainly far from open government. That needs to change quickly.

One unusual Region of Swimming New Zealand that does publish its Board minutes is Wellington. Well done Wellington. However my respect for their openness was tempered recently with the publication of the March and April Board Minutes. The March meeting was pretty standard until 8.55pm when the minutes say Chris Dyhrberg moved and Sam Rossiter-Stead seconded a decision to move into committee. Of course we do not know what was discussed in the 35 minutes until Chris Dyhrberg moved and Kevin Burnett seconded a motion moving the meeting out of committee.

However, right around the time of the March meeting Swimwatch was discussing the amalgamation of the Wairarapa Region into Wellington. My bet is the Wellington Chairman, Mark Berge and Sam Rossiter-Stead wanted to debate the involvement of Swimwatch in the affairs of the Wellington Region. If that is the case I am disappointed Wellington did not have their discussions in the open. Have they got something to hide? If it’s good enough to talk about me, say it to my face. If you think Swimwatch has published something in error, point it out, ask for an apology. Perhaps the Rossiter-Stead email never existed. Perhaps the crank phone calls never existed.

But while you are considering the possible shortcomings of Swimwatch, I must say I am at a loss to understand how Chris Dyhrberg could have been the mover of both the March motions. According to the list of those present at the meeting Chris Dyhrberg wasn’t there. That UFB network obviously works better than any of us thought. Or perhaps, the Swimming New Zealand disease is spreading.

In the following month, April, Mark Berge moved the meeting into committee again, but this time for only for ten minutes. Once again if Swimwatch occupied ten minutes of Wellington’s time I’m sure it could have been discussed in the open. Certainly, if Wellington needs the permission of the principals involved in Swimwatch to publish their discussions, they have our wholehearted consent. Go for it.

Swimwatch has occasionally been accused of hiding the identity of its writers and publishers. That’s rubbish of course. Perhaps our critics should shift their attention to the new Swimming New Zealand and the Wellington Region. There they will find the secrecy of unpublished minutes and at least forty minutes of unrecorded debate. Now that is cause for concern.