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Decision making in New Zealand rowing

  • 01 Dec 20

Rowing NZ has long prided itself on its well-established democratic structure of 11 associations and 65 clubs.

Rowing has been a competitive sport in New Zealand since the 1850s and, alongside athletics, is the country’s most successful Olympic sport. The New Zealand Rowing Association, trading as Rowing NZ, is the governing body of rowing in New Zealand and has two arms. The domestic arm focuses on club, school and university rowing in New Zealand. The high performance arm looks after the international teams, from juniors through to elite, that represent New Zealand.

How is the organisation structured?

A board is responsible for management and administration of Rowing NZ. Membership of Rowing NZ includes the 11 associations, which includes 10 regional associations plus the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing Association (NZSSRA). Below the regional associations sit the 65 clubs, each of which is affiliated to an association. The NZSSRA represents rowing schools rather than clubs. Rowing NZ also has nine affiliate members that are closely connected to Rowing NZ but support their aspect of the sport. These organisations do not have voting rights at the annual general meeting (AGM).

When and how are big decisions made?

Large decisions are mainly made at the AGM, or on rare occasions when a special general meeting is called. The AGM typically takes place in mid-May, and is rotated every three years between a North Island venue, a South Island venue and Wellington. The business of the AGM includes considering remits or motions to alter the constitution or rules and regulations of Rowing NZ (which includes the rules of racing for championship regattas). At the AGM, all voting on decisions is undertaken by the 11 association members. Each association nominates two delegates, who have one vote a-piece. In order to make changes to the constitution or rules and regulations, a 75 percent majority across associations is required.

How are matters to be voted on selected for the agenda?

At least eight weeks prior to the AGM, a notice of meeting detailing the date and venue and a call for remits is sent out to associations and published on the Rowing NZ website. The associations can then put forward any remits. These need to be provided to Rowing NZ at least four weeks before the AGM. If a club wants to see the introduction of more mixed rowing, for example, and it receives the backing of its association, then this can be proposed to Rowing NZ as a remit. A remit must be seconded by another association in order to go forward for voting. Once remits are collated, an agenda is released (not less than 2 weeks before the AGM). The associations then communicate the topics for consideration to their clubs. Some associations meet monthly, others less regularly. Rowing NZ endeavours to work ahead of the constitutional time frames in order to allow associations plenty of time to meet and consult with their clubs and determine how their delegates will vote. While Rowing NZ can also put forward remits, decisions are made solely by the 11 voting associations.

As a club rower, can I have a say in the future of the sport?

Any club rower has the right to raise any matter through their club committee or association, or they can come directly to Rowing NZ.

Are there any forums through which I can express an opinion?

Rowing NZ hosts the annual Whole of Sport Forum, typically held in Auckland in August/September, to gain feedback from members on hot topics in the sport. The forum has been running for more than 10 years and is a key opportunity for the governing body for the sport to gauge opinion on the issues that matter. This is a great chance for Rowing NZ, associations and clubs to come together and chat. Besides club representatives and association delegates, Rowing NZ also invites a range of people to ensure the opinions and voices heard within the rowing community are always fresh and diverse.

What are some recent decisions that have been voted on to implement change in the sport?

A good recent example was the decision to introduce an intermediate grade. Previously the grades below premier level included senior, club and novice, but it was difficult for a second-year rower or more recreational competitor to leap from novice to club level racing. Many regattas now host an intermediate grade, which sits between novice and club level. This has been a big success, allowing many rowers to race at an appropriate grade for their ability, meaning every rower has valuable racing experiences. Another key decision was taken at the 2017 AGM: to change the Boss Rooster, the men’s coxed four premier competition at the New Zealand Rowing Championships, into a coxless four event, to encourage higher entry levels.

What other parts of the Rowing NZ democratic structure should I be aware of?

Rowing NZ has a number of subcommittees such as the schools, university and domestic rowing committees, each of which is chaired by a board member, and which typically meet two or three times a year. The domestic committee consists of members from around the country who represent a mix of ages and genders, coaches, officials, club presidents etc. These committees are a great avenue for Rowing NZ and the associations to discuss topics prior to an AGM, and can help formulate matters that may later be raised on the agenda.