NZAA Presidents Report for the 2013 - 2014 Season

NZAA Presidents Report July 2014

The 2013/14 year has certainly been an interesting journey.

It began with the Annual conference in Rotorua. The new council for the most part was enthusiastic about the pathway forward and left the conference with what was thought to be a shared understanding and agreement about the pathway forward. The minutes were distributed and a summary of the meeting was contained in the secretary’s report published in the Axemen’s News.

There were several tasks to be undertaken. The development of a strategic plan, supported by some procedural documents, a discipline policy and a documented management structure were among them. Significant also in those minutes was the decision to uphold the rules of the association in the selection of a team by trials. It was moved and recorded that the council would run them.

Difficulties and tensions arose when it became apparent that there was not a shared interpretation of some of the rules.  Unfortunately instead of the will of the majority prevailing, the matter turned into a battle of personalities.

Trials were held and a team selected although some competitors despite having nominated correctly were conspicuous by their absence. A team was named but over the following months several withdrew either due to injury or for personal reasons. It was with regret that I notified Sydney Show Woodchop Committee that we were not able to supply them with a team selected under our rules and process. The NSW RAS issued personal invitations to some of the competitors to participate but at the commencement of the show there was still no team. It was only after all other avenues had been exhausted that the selector agreed, at the show, to select a team after the first weekend of the show.

Irrespective of the means by which they arrived there, the successful 3-0 win by a team of New Zealand competitors over Australia for the first time in many years has to be acknowledged as good for New Zealand and good for the sport.

We have seen a number of competitors from our association representing the country nationally and internationally. Congratulations to all those who had podium success at home, Adelaide, Sydney and further afield on the world stage. It is a truly global sport that offers international pathways. Our colts’ team have been inspired and are to be commended for their tenacity and commitment.

One of the positives of the past term was the establishment of a website and some social media channels for the association. This needs further development to truly reach everyone.

It has become apparent that some guidelines around the use of social media and electronic telecommunications need to be established. It is not acceptable in any sport that members/competitors use social media and email bombs to criticise each other or their association.

“The board’s job is to create the future, not mind the shop” (John Carver. Boards that Make a Difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991).  One of the things that has plagued successive councils over many years is the inordinate amount of time taken up with national team selection issues. For the council members involved there is stress and tension that need not exist if process was accepted and followed by those who would be the nation’s representatives. It is almost a sub-culture within the culture and too often personalities become the focus rather than following a rigorous and transparent process.

In the interim one of the best things that could happen is for the Men’s A Team to be run by a self-managing committee like the Veterans, Women, and Colts.  This would free up the council to attend to the strategic plan objectives and in turn give the other member competitors some tangible and value return on their investment.

Another thing I have been saddened by is the apparent strategizing that goes on between or against member sub associations. Instead of a collective council administering the sport as a whole for the benefit of all, there appears to be a regional struggle for power and control. The role of the national council is to govern the sport throughout New Zealand, that is, to govern in the best interests of the sport as a whole on behalf of all stakeholders. Council members of the national body have a legal duty to the national council and the national organisation. Affiliation and loyalty to other constituencies, for example the sub associations and clubs from which they come, must take second place to their duty to the national council. They also have a moral duty to all stakeholders of the sport to act in the best interests of the sport.

While the sport can be positively characterised by the strong volunteer base and the passionate and committed people within the sport, it is also undermined by a lack of collective responsibility to find solutions and a tendency to point the finger. I believe it is time to overhaul the governance model and establish the framework and support necessary to aid the growth and development of what can and should be a very strong sport in New Zealand. At the council’s most fundamental level, the role of the council is to establish the organisation’s purpose and strategic direction, develop and monitor policies and to work to ensure that the organisation’s objectives are met. Resources and assistance to do this are readily available from a number of national and regional agencies but for some it will require having to consider a broader view and an acceptance of external advice, guidance and models of good practice.

Imagine the untapped growth and performance potential for the sport of woodchopping if we had visionary and effective leadership – with NZAA working in partnership with our Regions for the good of our sport.

Having identified some key focus areas by way of the strategic plan, now is the time for a formal review of rules and structures.

A national sporting organisation exists after all for all its members not just those who aspire to succeed on the world stage. The challenge now is to embrace and create the future. Creating the future demands strategic thinking skills. Future councils will require people with the skills and foresight to carry through.

I want to conclude with a note of tribute to someone who if not known personally is probably known by name to most in the sport. Our secretary Val Baker is not seeking re-election for the role of secretary this year. Val has given 24 years of service as NANIA secretary/treasurer and the last 20 of those she has filled a role as delegate and/or secretary and treasurer to NZAA. Not everyone has seen eye to eye with Val.  Over the years a number of people have tangled swords with her.  This confrontational side of Val has been criticised by a few, usually when they haven’t managed to get the better of her. The flip side, however, is that she has taken very seriously the parts of her roles as stated in the constitution to “guard the rules of the association”. People may not appreciate the significance of this but many of the 92 National Sporting Organisations in New Zealand are, at any given time, defending legal challenges because of accusation of breeches of their constitutions, rules or selection policies. Val has been tenacious in her guardianship of the rules and despite challenges at both regional and national level, there has not been a successful claim against associations while Val has been involved. Likewise a number of officeholders in similar organisations have been found to have been less than scrupulous in their handling of finances. Val has protected the funds and despite the decline in numbers and income over the years has managed to grow a modest investment reserve. She has also secured nearly $100,000 in successful grant applications over that time. Val has been an invaluable resource to many and even some of her harshest critics have been known to admit that “no one knows the rules like Val Baker”. As Val now takes a step back, I want to acknowledge that the association has been fortunate to have her contribution. Thank you Val for your service.


Chris Lord
President 2013-2014