Damning report rocks New Zealand Swimming

Moller calls for board to resign

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 12:45 18/05/2012

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Swimming New Zealand is in shock after recommendations for a complete overhaul of the "dysfunctional" national sports organisation - just weeks before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Draft findings of a major independent review, headed by former NZRU chief executive Chris Moller, revealed 17 recommendations this morning - prompting "anger and tears" among staff at Swimming NZ's Wellington headquarters.

The most explosive proposals call for the entire board to resign, the removal of chief executive Mike Byrne and the sport's constitution to be torn up and re-written from scratch.

According to board member Humphrey Pullon, who addressed stakeholders at the Auckland briefing this morning, Byrne has "already packed up and left the office" and is now seeking legal advice over a severance package.

The developments represent a massive victory for a coalition of regions, who for months have led calls for the review, and, fundamental change to the way their sport is governed in New Zealand.

Staggering and deep-set problems within the organisation were revealed before an audience of 46 people - including national swimming icon Danyon Loader - citing major transparency issues around Olympic athletes, poor leadership and a dysfunctional relationship between Swimming NZ and its own stakeholders.

But with this taxpayer-funded review the third major investigation of swimming in four years, Moller demanded the 17 recommendations be implemented quickly, and in full.

The sport, Moller said, must not be allowed to "cherry pick" changes.

It must be all or nothing if it is truly serious about moving forward and resolving problems which have disrupted and divided the organisation for years.

Pullon, who described Swimming NZ as being "shell-shocked" by the draft proposal, said the board is however keen to see the recommendations carried out and would not stand in the way of the implementation.

His words indicated the board will accept the reviews terms of resignation en masse, though all will be able to re-apply for their positions.

Auckland Swimming Association executive Brian Palmer welcomed Pullon's comments and thanked Moller for producing a report which stakeholders could "never have dreamt of".

"Without these recommendations, the consequences for the sport are just too terrifying to even contemplate," Palmer said.

This afternoon Moller will also present the draft findings to stakeholders in Hamilton, before presentations in Palmerston North and Wellington tomorrow, and Christchurch and Dunedin on Sunday.

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The swimming community has until May 28 to offer feedback on the provisional recommendations, before a special general meeting to ratify them - which Pullon said could happen as early as July 1.

Moller said the timing of the review, on the eve of the London Olympics, was "unfortunate, but unavoidable" and he repeatedly urged the swimming community to "stop playing the man and start playing the ball".

Moller closed with a stern message for all past problems, agendas and personal issues to be forgotten.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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