Archive for September, 2019

Swimming New Zealand Annual General Meeting

Friday, September 27th, 2019


Be A Lion – Ask The Tough Questions

This Sunday, 29/9/19, the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held. If ever there was an occasion for the delegates to exercise their duty of oversight, this is it. After all, why are delegates at the meeting? What is their function? Well, one of their functions is to examine the performance of the six Board members. Have the affairs of the organisation been honestly and properly managed through the past 12 months? Is there anything in the performance of SNZ that is of concern? Is yet another drop in membership the product of management shortcomings? Is action being taken to address poor international results?

BUT on this occasion there is one item in SNZ’s Annual Report that demands the attention of every delegate in the room. This year’s accounts include a contingency amount of $100,000 to pay for legal fees in 2020. The reason this Board is planning to spend a huge sum on legal fees needs to be examined in detail. Proper oversight demands this amount is subject to the closest scrutiny.

Questions that must be asked are:

  1. What is the Board planning to spend $100,000 paying for? The answer is on legal fees paid to fight my application for a Report into complaints about my coaching.
  2. Is the $100,000 allowance set aside enough? No way in the world. The legal fees cost will be in the order of $100,000. But if I am awarded anything in damages the amount will be well in excess of that figure. The Tribunal hearing alone is set to take a week. $100,000 is not even close.
  3. Is spending 3% of the organisation’s income on legal fees justified? Absolutely not. If SNZ had handed over the Report four years ago any fallout would have been long gone at absolutely zero cost. $100,000 would have been available to pay for swimmers to attend a World Championship with $20,000 in change.
  4. What are SNZ so set on hiding in the Report? It can’t be the identity of the complainants or the Report’s author, Michael Marris. Everyone knows Susan Turner and Nikki Johns made the complaints. Hiding their identity when both of them rush to announce their involvement in Stuff, on Facebook and Instagram is a pointless exercise. Ask Cotterill if he can explain why he is hiding their identity from 15,000 SNZ members when Turner and Johns advertise themselves to 140,000 Stuff, Facebook and Instagram readers.
  5. Is there a way to settle this without making lawyers rich at the member’s expense? Yes of course. In four years SNZ has made no effort to negotiate a resolution. None at all. In my opinion it should still be settled “out of court”. Cotterill needs to be asked, at the AGM, why he hasn’t picked up the phone to talk about a solution. Why has spending the member’s money been a higher priority that reaching a solution?
  6. Is Cotterill wasting money in order to fight a well-known critic? Yes, and that’s as pathetic as it sounds.

So, there are five questions Chairman Cotterill needs to answer. Watch him duck and dive. Watch him avoid the issue. Hear him say things to the members like – because the case is before the Tribunal he can’t talk about it. Any excuse in order to avoid the problem. After all, he’s been talking at a 100kph to the media, why shouldn’t he talk to the members?

If he does try those tricks read him this statement.

I, David Alexander Wright, hereby give my approval for SNZ or any delegate to the AGM to discuss any aspect of the case and/or my involvement and/or the plan to spend $100,000 on a legal case at the AGM.

And so delegates, have a good meeting. Exercise your oversight duties well. I’m interested to hear how you get on. If you have a minute after the meeting send me an email to

Dalziel, “Unless We See It”

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Kathryn Dalziel is the lawyer Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has hired to defend the charge that they have interfered in my privacy. I have said before that there must be something in the Marris Report that SNZ are desperate to hide. Certainly SNZ has employed the best privacy brains in the country in an effort to get them out of trouble. As someone recently said in the United States, “You don’t plead the Fifth Amendment if you are innocent.” In this case the equivalent of that is, “You don’t employ Kathryn Dalziel unless you’ve got something to hide.”

She is the best. Whenever Stuff or Radio NZ or TVNZ or the NZ Herald want an expert legal opinion on privacy matters, the lawyer they call is Kathryn Dalziel. She has commented recently in the main stream media on privacy problems associated with the Christchurch earthquake, filming inside pub toilets, Aaron Smith’s indiscretion in an airport toilet, the couple who had sex at work with the windows open and the lights on, the woman who decorated a cake insulting her employer, privacy in the credit industry and a hundred other issues.

Even YouTube has three clips featuring Dalziel’s opinions. One, that I found particularly interesting, was an event called the Privacy Forum 2016. In it Dalziel and two other lawyers discussed the topic, “Principle 6 Requests. What do they reveal for business?”

Much of the discussion had no relevance to my Marris Report case. But, as one would expect from a lawyer of her class, the opening sentence of Dalziel’s presentation cut right to the chase. In ten words she said perfectly what my 60 page submission to the Human Rights Review Tribunal will be trying to say. She said,


Isn’t that just the point? We cannot control our personal information unless we see it. For four years I have been trying to convince SNZ of that case. For a year the Privacy Commissioner tried to convince SNZ of that case. Through all that SNZ said, “No.” And now SNZ are about to spend $400 an hour paying for Kathryn Dalziel to argue that she didn’t mean David Wright should control his information by seeing it.

What she really meant was the person who paid the most should control David Wright’s information by seeing it. At least that’s the way SNZ want it to work in this case.

You see there are two ways this case can go. Either the principles of the Privacy Act, either the principle of seeing my information, either what Dalziel knows is right and honest can win or money can buy some slippery deal, some underhand legal trick in order for SNZ to flout the law. As expected the path SNZ has taken is to try and buy their way out of trouble. My belief in justice says they will not be successful. I hope Dalziel’s sense of honesty reaches the same conclusion.

While Dalziel’s talents and legal mind are first class, I’m not so sure about her buddy in this case – SNZ’s Approachable Lawyer, Michael Smyth. Just about everything he sends out has a mistake of some sort. He has employed Dalziel to help him on this case. What he needs is a third-grader who can read. The submission he sent me today told the Tribunal this case was “BETWEEN DAVID ALEXANDER WRIGHT ANS SWIMMING NEW ZEALAND”. Oh, I know it is a small thing, but added to the double negatives – remember when he told us all, “It should not be unsurprising to you that a lawyer should use the word in this way.” – the misspellings and general mix ups that have gone before, you do begin to wonder.

Anyway we are all due to meet on the telephone next week. Sadly it will be the first time I’ve heard him speak. I can’t wait. I say sadly because one other point Dalziel made in her YouTube discussion was the importance of complainants and agencies, “dealing directly”. Well, that advice has gone by the board in this case. Apart from required legal transactions, in four years SNZ have sent me two emails. No phone calls, no meetings, no “can we sort this out?” – just two emails. Dalziel is right again of course. Those she deals with are the problem.

A NZ Refugee Is One Step Closer To Becoming An Olympian

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Swimmer Eyad Masoud has been awarded an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Athlete Support Scholarship. The scholarship will provide funding for Masoud to train and attend elite competitions.

“I was so happy when I got the email and I haven’t stopped smiling since,” said Masoud.

As a recipient of the scholarship 24-year-old Masoud will also be one of the athletes to be considered for selection to the Olympic Refugee Team for Tokyo 2020.

The IOC will release its selection criteria for the Olympic Refugee Team in early 2020 with its Executive Board in charge of athlete selection to the team. Receiving a scholarship does not guarantee a place in the team.

The Olympic Refugee Team debuted at the Rio 2016 Games, with 10 athletes displaced from their home nations competing under the Olympic flag.

“Being eligible for the Olympic Refugee Team is huge for me, I’ve dreamed of competing at the Olympics since I arrived in New Zealand so to be a step closer to that is pretty special.”

Masoud was born in Syria where he learnt to swim at a young age. His family moved between Syria and Saudi Arabia until Syria became too dangerous. Their home has since been destroyed by bombs.

Masoud was granted refugee status and moved to New Zealand in late 2017. As well as being a competitive swimmer Masoud studies engineering and works as a junior swim coach in Auckland.

“I’ve been fighting to spread the message that no matter what your circumstances are, if you work hard you can still achieve your dreams.

“Getting this scholarship has given me even more motivation and the funding will allow me to train even harder.”

New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith says Masoud is a worthy recipient of the refugee scholarship.

“Eyad has been through a lot in his life so we’re extremely pleased that he’s getting a helping hand as he works towards his goals,” said Smith.

Masoud’s strongest event is the 50m freestyle.

The Tokyo Olympic Games will be held July 24th-August 9th, 2020.

So What IS Your Money Being Spent On?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

The aspect of the Marris Report saga that has long puzzled me is the length Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) will go to, to avoid letting me read the un-redacted Marris Report. What is there about the woman who complained about me that Cotterill and Johns are trying to protect? What is it about someone who has just been found responsible for a $AU1.4million damages judgement against Queensland Health that Cotterill wants to hide? What is it about a family that has left more swimming clubs than I’ve ever joined that is so confidential? What is in the Report that Cotterill does not want the members to see?

It really does beat me. After all SNZ turned down my request for the Report. SNZ then told the Privacy Commission to go away. Now you have to admit for a semi-public organisation like a national sporting body to tell the Privacy Commissioner to go take a running jump is pretty harsh, especially when the Privacy Commissioner responds by recommending the Chairman and CEO go take a course on the importance of privacy. Consider that – the two most senior people responsible for your children’s swimming have been told they need tuition in the importance of privacy. SNZ rejected that recommendation as well. It might be time for parents who care about their children’s welfare to consider a change from swimming to parachuting or mixed martial arts. It could well improve their safety.

But why? Why is SNZ so stubbornly refusing to do what the law requires? I sure don’t know. For three years I have been trying to obtain the Report and make it available for everyone to read. But still the answer is – no.

And SNZ are not shy about spending your money to prevent you reading the Report. In order to hide the Report from you, Cotterill and Johns have deep pockets indeed. We are now about to face the Human Rights Review Tribunal. SNZ spent $2000 in 2018 on legal costs. That went up to $12,000 in 2019. And a provision of $100,000 has been set aside for 2020. Remember that money is not to get you to see the Report. It is to STOP you seeing the Report. Unbelievable – $114,000 of YOUR money to stop YOU reading a Report that YOU paid to have written. Does that sound right? I don’t think so. At the AGM ask Cotterill what he is up to.

Here is my best shot at how Cotterill is going to spent $100,000 next year on preventing you reading the Marris Report.

First SNZ will be paying the legal bills of SNZ’s normal lawyer. That’s a company called the Approachable Lawyer and a person called Michael Smyth. He’s a pom who trained in law in the UK and was admitted to the New Zealand Bar in 2002. My guess is that SNZ are signed up to what Smyth calls his Gold Plan. That will cost an annual membership fee of $2,280. For that SNZ will get 16 hours of legal advice and access – wait for it – to Smyth’s “secret library”. Any hours of legal advice over and above the first 16 cost $225 per hour.

But over and above the Approachable Lawyer, SNZ has scoured the country for the best brains they can find on privacy law. Presumably that means Smyth did not consider himself the best brains in privacy law. That’s probably true. No argument from me certainly. However, what SNZ came up with is a lawyer in Christchurch who really does know her privacy stuff. Her name is Kathryn Dalziel. This woman is good. She does know her stuff. Her website tells me, “Working with me will present you with a unique experience; a blend of my positive personality and my high drive and ability to resolve your case.” Believe me she is going to need all those qualities to dig SNZ out of this mess.

But of course the best is not cheap. Shopping at Harrods costs more than Pac’n Save. Her website tells me this is a summarised version of what she will cost SNZ.

·         My hourly rate for instructions is $400 per hour,

·         In addition to my fee, all direct disbursements and out of pocket expenses will be charged,

·         Although I am Christchurch-based, my practice covers the entire country. I charge actual travel time at 50% of my charge out rate plus disbursements such as airfare, car parking, taxis.

·         Each account is payable within 7 days. I reserve the right to adjust any fee, that has not been paid within one month of the date of invoice, for an interest charge. That charge will not exceed the unauthorised overdraft interest rate applicable to my practice account plus a margin of 5%, compounding monthly.

So what does that mean? Well, for example in a couple of weeks we have a telephone conference call with the Human Rights Review Tribunal. Let’s say that lasts an hour. Both Smyth and Dalziel will be on the call – although why Smyth needs to be there I have no idea. I’m sure Dalziel knows how to conduct a pre-hearing call without Smyth’s $225 dollars worth.

A one hour call for the two lawyers will cost SNZ $625. Let’s assume their preparation for the call is 30 minutes each. That’s an additional $312 – a new total of $937. With paper, photocopying and the like let’s call it $1000. $1000 for an hour long telephone call. Just imagine what an eight hour long hearing is going to cost.

The money SNZ is prepared to pour into this worries me. I am no lawyer and, with the employment of Dalziel, Cotterill has shown he wants the best legal brains he can find. I do not want to see what is just and right lost because I get outsmarted by a better legal brain. I like to believe that justice is good and not simply handed out to those who spend the most.

But perhaps David can handle Goliath. Perhaps Robin Hood can win. We will see.

Bruce, The Social Scientist

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Do you know the way the All Blacks whisper plans for the next play behind their hand? Well, the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, Bruce Cotterill, does the same thing. The difference is, he does it all the time. I think he must believe that whispering in a code behind a cupped hand makes what he says sound more important. He is wrong, of course. It actually means no one understands a word he is saying.

I don’t think Cotterill has ever heard the expression, “Just say what you think” or “Give it to me straight” or even, “Speak your mind.” The 2019 Annual Report has a classic piece of Bruce speak. Here is what he says.

One area of the business that has occupied an increasingly major part of the Board’s time over the year has been matters relating to membership protection. Society’s attitudes and expectations are changing rapidly which in turn is testing our ability as an organisation to meet these changing expectations and delivering outcomes in a timely and satisfactory manner.

What was acceptable yesterday may very well not be acceptable tomorrow so the Board is continuously looking at ways that it can provide a safe environment for all members while at the same time ensuring that our systems for dealing with membership protection matters are fit for purpose and easily understood by all.

First of all, what the does that pile of jargon mean? Second, if you take what he says word for word, it really is a load of old rubbish. Cotterill is as bad as Donald Trump for denying any problem is his responsibility. Don’t believe me? Read what he says. He says society is changing so fast Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is struggling to keep up. His clear intent is to blame the pace of social change on the difficulty SNZ is having doing the right thing. It is not SNZ’s fault. The problem lies with society. If society slowed down SNZ would be just fine.

It clearly has never occurred to Bruce that society might not be changing fast at all. Society might be jogging along quietly at the pace it has been for five hundred years. SNZ’s problem may be the Neanderthals running the show. I suspect a social snail would show that lot a clean pair of heels.

For example, the Privacy Act was passed by the NZ government in 1993. That’s sixteen years ago. And yet in 2019 Cotterill and his Board were told by the Privacy Commissioner they had breached the Act by interfering in my privacy. It is not the pace of social change that did that. Society’s privacy rules haven’t changed for sixteen years. That problem is down to the Board of SNZ not keeping up.

Socially at least, while the world is catching a flight to the future, SNZ is walking around in animal skins. The beginning of the second paragraph shows perfectly Bruce’s blind ignorance of his role in the problem. He says what was acceptable yesterday might not be acceptable tomorrow. Therefore the Board is constantly looking at ways to provide a safe environment in ways that are understood and “fit for purpose”.

That is rubbish. When I needed protection from a SNZ club President who has recently been found responsible by the Queensland Supreme Court of employment mismanagement and employee abuse, did SNZ provide me with a safe environment? No they hung me out to dry. They protected the identity of the false accuser. They are spending a fortune hiding the results of the investigation. And now they are setting aside $100,000 to pay for the legal costs in an effort to prove they were right.

SNZ knew the serial problems caused in Hawkes Bay, Auckland and Canterbury clubs by the woman who complained about me. They should have known she had been directly involved in a $1.4million employment claim. But SNZ believed her; took her side and they still are. That’s not adapting to the pace of social change. That’s not being “fit for purpose”. That’s sticking your corporate head in the sand and paying whatever it takes to dig your way out of trouble. And SNZ knows it. In an effort to dodge a bullet SNZ is employing two lawyers – one their normal Approachable Lawyer from Auckland and the other one of New Zealand’s foremost privacy lawyers from Christchurch. Two lawyers at $1000 an hour against me – a swimming coach with a BA in political science. It’s like me getting into the ring with Mohammed Ali. That is the measure of their desperation. That is what your membership money is being spent on – that is not social change – that’s your membership fees paying to protect Cotterill’s ego.

Because what a real man would do in this situation – what a genuine person interested in the protection of members would do is call me to a meeting, say he made a mistake, ask how can he fix it, do a deal and end it all tomorrow. That’s what keeping pace with social change means. It means being honest. It means fronting a mistake and moving on. Susan Turner has proved to be an unreliable partner. Protecting her privacy while trampling all over mine was not a good decision. As it stands, Cotterill’s Annual Account words mean nothing. His words and his actions have zero relationship to each other. Anything can be fixed but I doubt they have the courage or perception to do it. A bull in a china shop is more their style. And Cotterill blames society! I don’t think so. This one is down to him and his new found mate.

SNZ’s AGM is in a few days. Ask him about it.