Trevor Mallard: NZ sport structure and spending needs to be investigated

By Simon Plumb

Labour MP and former Sport Minister Trevor Mallard is calling for an independent review of New Zealand sport. Credit: NZPA / Andrew Labett
Labour MP and former Sport Minister Trevor Mallard is calling for an independent review of New Zealand sport. Credit: NZPA / Andrew Labett

Sport funding needs a full and independent review, says former Minister Trevor Mallard.

Labour's sport spokesman says he's shocked by front-page revelations in today's Weekend Herald that 85 Crown sport administrators are pulling down pay in excess of $100,000.

Mallard says it's time the sector was put under the microscope and that includes scrutiny right at the top - across the Crown's recreational arm, Sport New Zealand, and its elite partner, High Performance Sport New Zealand.

"I'm very surprised at the number," Mallard said.

"I've always been unhappy with a separate high performance board and management which has duplications with Sport New Zealand and as a result has extra costs.

"It's time there was a proper review. We need to look really carefully at the shape of the organisations."

When Mallard was appointed Minister of Sport in 1999, he tasked Sir John Graham with chairing a review of how sport was being run in this country. Mallard said the result was a fractured and inefficient system with "bureaucratic duplication".

He fears the current model is now showing similar symptoms and it's time for comprehensive analysis.

"That review in 1999 ended up bringing together the part of sport that was in the tourism department, the Hillary Commission and the Sports Foundation and basically made one organisation all going in the same direction. It looks to me like stuff has dissipated again," he said.

"I would want to get someone with a really good reputation for running an organisation and a good understanding of sport to have a proper, independent look at it to make sure we're got an organisation which spends appropriately."

According to their respective websites, Sport NZ has nine board members and HPSNZ has eight, with both boards chaired by Sir Paul Collins and dual positions for Bill Birnie and Murray Gutry.

The Herald approached the office of Minister of Sport Dr Jonathan Coleman for comment. A spokeswoman said he was overseas and not be available.

Despite a record haul of 18 medals at this year's Olympic Games in Rio, the Weekend Herald has learned several high-profile athletes are tired of feeling like "second-class citizens" and they're the only ones held truly accountable for performance.

Mahe Drysdale and Jo Aleh, who have five Olympic medals between them, including three golds, want a change to the way sport is funded in New Zealand, with an emphasis on athlete-coach funding, not system funding.

A third legend of the black singlet, Valerie Adams, has also weighed into what is shaping as a fierce debate, saying her personal example offers a way forward.

"More funding needs to go to the athlete and coach," Drysdale said.

"Every dollar spent should come with the questions: 'Does this help the athlete win? Will it help improve results?' Those are the areas the money should be going to."

Drysdale, Aleh and Adams want to sit down with country's sports chiefs and start a dialogue about the way forward for sports funding.

Top of the agenda is a structure that saw 85 employees of Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand, on salaries of more than $100,000 in 2015.

In simple terms Sport NZ is in charge of sports participation, including recreation and grassroots, and controls government funding while HPSNZ is charged with helping our sportsmen, women and teams win on the world stage.

Forty-one of those six-figure salaried employees work at HPSNZ.

HPSNZ chief executive Alex Baumann earned $420-430,000 in 2015, a figure that puts him just below the Prime Minister's salary. Peter Miskimmin earned between $380-390,000 as chief executive of Sport New Zealand.

Mallard said Baumann's role wasn't created during his term in charge, while estimating former hockey player Miskimmin could earn significantly more than $380,000-$390,000 in the private sector.

Miskimmin's salary band was $240,001-$250,000 when he took over from Nick Hill in 2008.

At the other end of the pay scale, athletes receive performance enhancement grants (PEGs), which are taxed, ranging from $60,000 for a gold medallist, to $55,000 for a medallist to $25,000 if you're top 12 in the world.

Athletes also have access to coaches, sports science, sports psychology, medicine, nutrition and physiotherapy.

Some high-profile athletes like Drysdale are able to secure endorsement deals to top up their income, but most prospective Olympians are faced with the reality of working while training.

- Herald on Sunday

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