September 2020,

HSPNZ announces audit to ensure wellbeing best practice

High Performance Sport NZ (HPSNZ) has commissioned an independent audit of internal systems and processes to ensure it has a best practice framework for supporting the wellbeing of athletes, coaches and staff in the HP system.

The audit, to be conducted by sports lawyer Don Mackinnon, is designed to ensure that all relevant systems and processes, including those introduced by HPSNZ following the 2018 Heron Report, are operating as intended.

“The current allegations surrounding canoe racing have raised some questions about whether issues have been escalated fully or followed through to the extent that we expect,” says HPSNZ Chief Executive Michael Scott.

“There is no margin for error when it comes to wellbeing and escalation of serious issues. This audit will enable us a thorough opportunity to assess what is in place, whether it has worked and where we might need to make adjustments to ensure our systems and processes are best practice.”

This week we have also heard directly from a current women’s Canoe Racing athlete, who has shared allegations relating to athlete wellbeing and concerns that these were not acted upon by Canoe Racing NZ.

“HPSNZ is deeply concerned by this situation,” says Michael Scott. “The wellbeing of athletes and others in the HP system is and must remain of paramount importance. With the consent of this athlete, we have written to Canoe Racing NZ to share these allegations and outline our expectations on how they will be managed.

“We will be working closely with Canoe Racing New Zealand to ensure their actions in response to the current situation have the necessary impact.”

Following the Heron Report, HPSNZ made a number of changes to internal systems and processes. This included a new Internal Complaints Framework, the introduction of a risk escalation committee and a new process for post pinnacle event reviews.

Other initiatives to protect athlete wellbeing and evolve the HP system were progressed through the 2032 HP System Strategy that involved consultation with partners and others across the system. This work has helped shape HPSNZ’s 2024 Strategy, which includes wellbeing as a key platform. The Strategy will be announced late this year.

“I said at the time of the Heron Report that we had to find a better balance between wellbeing and the demands of high performance sport,” says Michael Scott.

“I remain committed to this and HPSNZ’s ability to lead positive change in New Zealand’s HP system. Recent allegations highlight the magnitude of this challenge, but I believe our 2024 Strategy, combined with the audit we have announced today, will all play a key role in achieving the environment and outcomes our athletes and staff deserve.”

“Examples of wellbeing initiatives likely to be included in the 2024 Strategy are incorporating wellbeing principles into the development of HPSNZ’s revised investment criteria and implementing mental health initiatives designed to respond to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.”

In addition to the independent audit, HPSNZ is taking steps to strengthen the culture of the organisation. This includes providing a range of forums where views and concerns can be raised in a safe and open environment.

“Issues and allegations within the women’s canoe racing HP programme have highlighted divergent views within our organisation. We need to ensure an environment where all staff have the opportunity to be heard in a way that is constructive and comfortable for them. Their collective views are vital to the wellbeing and performance of our athletes and coaches both now and into the future.”

The terms of reference for the independent audit are available here.