Funding cuts force Swimming New Zealand to chop two high performance jobs

Gary Hurring was in charge of the New Zealand swim team at last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
AMBER-LEIGH WOOLF/FAIRFAX NZ

Gary Hurring was in charge of the New Zealand swim team at last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Swimming New Zealand's stand-in head coach at last year's Rio Olympics, Gary Hurring, has lost his job due to a big funding cut.

Hurring, Swimming NZ's high performance development athlete coach, and high performance coaching director Donna Bouzaid, will see their roles disestablished after the organisation had almost a third of its yearly budget removed.

No Kiwi swimmers made an A final at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro - with illness and injury hampering the performance of team star Lauren Boyle - and as a result, High Performance Sport NZ reduced Swimming NZ's annual budget from $1.3 million to about $900,000.

Lauren Boyle failed to make the finals of the women's 400m and 800m freestyle events in Rio.
GETTY IMAGES

Lauren Boyle failed to make the finals of the women's 400m and 800m freestyle events in Rio.

The organisation's chief executive, Steve Johns, said that reduction means the sport's governing body in NZ had to cut its cloth accordingly.

READ MORE: US coach gets NZ job

"After the Rio Olympics, High Performance Sport New Zealand took a full review of all of the sports in the Olympic cycle. Swimming had a funding cut of $400,000 confirmed just before Christmas - it was about a 30 per cent cut of our high performance budget - so unfortunately as we've sat down and looked at the prioritised spending for the next three or four years, there have been a couple of positions which have had to be disestablished as we just can't afford them," Johns said.

Donna Bouzaid has been Swimming NZ's high performance coaching director.
FAIRFAX NZ

Donna Bouzaid has been Swimming NZ's high performance coaching director.

"So we wanted to prioritise the spend around the national training centre and the national swimming programme around that, and there's a whole lot of tours and training camps etc that come in and around that.

"They're still extremely important positions to us, but at the end of the day, the organisation just couldn't afford to fund it, because the funding cut was so significant."

Hurring, a world champs silver medallist backstroker in 1978, was a de facto head coach for the NZ team at Rio, with the organisation appointing Jerry Olszewski from the US to that role in September.

Johns admitted the job cuts would effect the organisation.

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"It's going to be a fluid situation for the next several months as we look at how Donna and Gary's roles could be spread out among the existing or remaining staff. But there's no question there's going to be a small drop-off in some of the services around coach development and athlete development.

"But again, when you're having funding cuts that big, something's got to give. We need to make sure as much funding as possible is put into the swimmers, into the national training centre, and the Aqua Blacks. There may have to be a period of time where we have to pull back and not do as much as we wanted to do.

"It's the nature of the business really, and other sports will be the same that get funding cuts."

Johns was philosophical of the HPSNZ funding model that places an emphasis on world-class results for funding, but can leave organisations struggling to reach the top with reduced financial backing.

"There's some good logic in that [policy] ... but if you get a funding cut, it's going to make it even harder to achieve results in the next cycle. Certainly a big part of my role will be to go out there and try and secure more funding - but it will be difficult.

"In my time at Tennis New Zealand I was fully open in saying that while I understand that HPSNZ has a funding policy they must work within, I think one of the difficult things is that you're not really comparing apples with apples across the different sports. Some of the sports that are funded significantly well might have 20 nations competing at the top level; a sport like swimming has 150 nations.

"It's hard to have one policy but in saying that, I can see how they'd be justified in saying how hard it would be having one funding policy for one sport and one for another."

 

 - Stuff

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