Concern as Smith joins Cycling NZ rebuilding effort

Former NZOC boss appointed to new role at beleaguered sport, but who is picking up the tab? Dana Johannsen investigates.



Stuff NZ Newspapers


Veteran sports administrator Kereyn Smith will take up a new job at Cycling NZ next week as rebuild efforts get under way following a brutal review into the sport. The Sunday Star-Times has learned the former NZ Olympic Committee boss has been appointed ‘‘transformational director’’ at Cycling NZ, with High Performance Sport NZ to pick up the tab for Smith’s salary. It is understood Smith will start in the role tomorrow – the same day the findings of an independent inquiry into Cycling NZ will be released to the public. The inquiry was launched in the wake of the tragic death of Rio Olympian Olivia Podmore, which raised serious questions about the organisation’s commitment to athlete welfare and the culture of elite sport. Both High Performance Sport NZ and Cycling NZ declined to answer questions about the appointment, advising they would comment at a media conference tomorrow following the release of the inquiry report. But a source within the cycling community told the Star-Times the news was announced by Cycling NZ chairman Phil Holden in a meeting with member organisations on Thursday night. Staff at Cycling NZ were said to have been blindsided by the news, with no consultation taking place. The source said while Smith ‘‘could do a lot’’ for Cycling NZ, there is frustration that the appointment seems to have been made by a cosy handshake agreement – a move that appears at odds with Cycling NZ’s drive to establish a new era of transparency and accountability. There is also confusion as to whether the appointment has been made by Cycling NZ, or its government partners, High Performance Sport NZ. Cycling NZ’s staff-hiring practices is one of the areas examined in the inquiry, led by Mike Heron QC and sports academic Sarah Leberman, who highlighted the need for greater transparency. It is understood Smith has been recruited to help guide Cycling NZ through a period of change, with a raft of new athlete welfare measures and policy shifts expected to be announced tomorrow alongside the review findings. T he review is said to have been ‘‘brutal’’ and ‘‘confronting’’ for Cycling NZ and Sport NZ, and officials are eager to ensure that they are seen to be taking proactive steps to address the serious issues raised by the inquiry. The findings, which were released to Podmore’s family and Cycling NZ athletes on Friday, do not address the treatment of Podmore in the programme, instead focusing on the fault lines her death has revealed in New Zealand’s high-performance system. Sources have told the StarTimes the report brings to light a number of concerning practices within the organisation and wider system, including a culture of medals over athletes, favouritism and a lack of consideration of women’s health. It is the second major inquiry into the sport in three and a half years, following a 2018 investigation by Heron into allegations of inappropriate behaviour and bullying in Cycling NZ’s elite programmes. Smith, who did not respond to requests to comment, stepped down as secretary general of the NZOC in March following 11 years at the helm. Prior to this she was CEO of the NZ Academy of Sport, having earlier served as general manager of the Hillary Commission (now Sport NZ).