A Question of Sport

In just a few days the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Annual General Meeting (AGM) is to be held in Auckland. The most loyal of delegates would be hard-pushed not to admit that these events are hardly a thorough investigation of the performance of SNZ. Two sausage rolls, a sad looking sandwich and a cup of Earl Grey and the delegates will agree to any atrocity. “In depth” is purely an aquatic term when it comes to SNZ AGMs.

I won’t be at the meeting. I’m no longer a member of SNZ. But here are one or two issues that are in the SNZ accounts and should be investigated. Someone needs to ask Cotterill why these events have occurred on his watch.

Legal Fees

I have no idea why a liability provision for $100,000 of legal fees should be called “Accumulated Depreciation”. It is not depreciation of course as the note to the accounts, shown in the table below, goes on to explain.

All significant legal disputes involving probable loss that can be reliably estimated have been provided for in the financial statements. In the current year there has been a claim made relating to damages in respect of an alleged breach of the Privacy Act. SNZ on the advice of their lawyers have booked a provision of $100,000 to recognise the estimated legal costs of defending the claim. The amount has been fully provided for in the financial statements.

It is beyond belief that Cotterill can look members in the eye and say he charged NZ’s best swimmers $80,000 to go to a World Championship. He sent SNZ’s most talented members out on to the streets begging for money to pay for themselves to get to Japan and at the same time he was making decisions that were about to cost the organisation $100,000 in legal bills – and possibly a lot more. The priorities of Cotterill, Johns and the Board are a disgraceful shambles. Members at the AGM would do well to demand to see the Marris Report – after all they are about to pay $100,000 for it. They should at least be able to read it. It’s in Steve Johns’ office somewhere. And if Bruce asks why you want to read the Report tell him that in accordance with Principle 11(d) of the Privacy Act, and as long as I get to read it too, you have my permission.


When Cotterill charged NZ’s best swimmers $80,000 to go to Japan it was only part of a larger user-pays immoral rip-off. The overall user-pays bill went up from $130,000 last year to $389,000. That’s $259,000 additional dollars taken out of member’s pockets so that Cotterill and Johns could spend $100,000 or more on a legal battle that the Privacy Commission told them should never have happened.

Event Entry Fees

Here again there has been a massive increase of $100,000, up from $457,000 to $557,000. Some of this will be additional swimmers – a good thing. But a lot of it is higher charges and swimmers being entered in additional events – both extremely bad.

The bottom line is that Cotterill and his Board have exploited every trick in the book to extract more money out of a reduced number of members. Membership fees haven’t gone up because membership numbers are down again.

The accounts tell me there are 256 competitive swimmers and 5,215 coaches in NZ. That’s 20 coaches for each swimmer. That’s intense. Well done SNZ. They mean the other way around of course. It begs the question as to whether anyone proof reads anything they send out.

Overall membership, probably the most critical measure of performance, has continued to slide. The table below shows SNZ total membership numbers for the past three years.

2017 2018 2019
No. Members 19,118 18,730 17,255
% Change Down 2% Down 8%

That’s called downhill and picking up speed. Never mind I’m sure this Board can figure out a way of getting more money out of the user-pays fees to pay unnecessary legal bills and higher wages. And on the subject of wages ——-


The wages of SNZ’s two highest paid employees went up by $34,000 from $285,000 to $319,000. Let’s assume Steve Johns only got half of that increase – he probably got more. But even at half, that’s an additional $17,000 for what? To watch the membership numbers collapse by 8%. To turn down a recommendation of the Privacy Commissioner. How come that’s not mentioned in his report? It can’t be every day he gets to tell the government agency responsible for privacy that they are wrong. It can’t be every day the same agency tells him to go take a training course in privacy. Come on Steve – these are highlights of your 2019 year. We need to know what’s gone on for your extra $17,000.

Business Planning

The Annual Report is not without its lighter moments. In fact any world class comedian would be delighted with some of the jokes they tell. The best is the spending that went up from $0 to $34,000 on BUSINESS PLANNING. Come on, you have to see the joke of that. Are they really trying to tell the world they planned to spend $100,000 on a needless war?

Anyway the idea of SNZ planning the chaos of their flight from one bad decision to another is hilarious. Don’t tell me they actually planned to lose $43,000 on the sale of fixed assets. That’s probably the poolside gym gear they have had to give away. Well done North Shore Swim Club. You did well

What planning went into losing 1500 members? What planning went into the equal worst Commonwealth Games result in NZ swimming history? What planning went into the screw up over the pre-Games training camp?

Those are some questions that probably should be asked. The next Swimwatch article will discuss Cotterill’s plunge into social science philosophy. Yes, he spends a couple of paragraphs in his Annual Report telling us all how the world has changed; how members need protection. I sure know what that feels like. After he has spent the membership’s $100,000 my guess is Cotterill will too.

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