Spoke Magazine

Open Letter to NZ MTB Clubs/Other Interested Cyclists

Posted by Caleb Smith on Sunday February 26 2012

I’ve been on the road for the last week and for a good deal of that time I was out of cell and Internet range. When I finally got coverage a couple of hundred e-mails were waiting for my attention, and this one from Chris Mildon I figured was worth your attention. It’s in regards to the BikeNZ Plan and is well worth a read. It’s worth noting that I’ve already received e-mails from two clubs saying that Chris’ view isn’t supported by their clubs (Rotorua and Hawkes Bay). Funny thing is if you’re a mountain biker in Rotorua you’ll have to go to Napier or Cambrridge because the BikeNZ Roadshow is skipping your town.

Chris’ e-mail below.

“You’ll be aware that there is a road show looming where BikeNZ will be presenting its Bike Plan around NZ, gathering feedback and presenting its view of the future. I’d like to provide some information to you that I hope will provide a level of balance to this presentation, and hopefully prompt interested mountain bikers and cyclists to look at the future of this space with a broader view.

You may also be aware that I resigned from the MTBNZ Executive in December 2011 having been involved with this organisation since the formation of BikeNZ, 10 years ago. Three and a half years of my involvement were as president of MTBNZ (post 2006 Rotorua World Champs), a role I really enjoyed and under which I felt we made a positive difference for both MTBNZ and the clubs it services. This letter reflects my own opinions, and may or may not reflect the current positioning of the MTBNZ Executive.

I have always been a strong supporter of MTB Clubs, and an often lonely advocate for a strong MTBNZ servicing their needs. Under my watch, a conscious decision was taken by the MTBNZ Executive to move on from a history of BikeNZ non-delivery in specific areas, taking responsibility back for many crucial deliver items once vested with BikeNZ. As a volunteer organisation, MTBNZ has worked extremely hard to cover off these items and has done pretty well with very limited resources – but as part of this push a corresponding, sustainable structure needed to be put into place to ensure we could continue with this progress, while being responsible for our own destiny, and while always being led by our MTB Club Affiliates. That desired, sustainable structure has not been able to be put in place and any attempt to do so has not been supported by BikeNZ. However, with start-up initiatives such as a fully subscribed MTB Club levy system supporting MTBNZ there is still an opportunity to make a difference.

I have always been and continue to be a supporter of an ‘umbrella type parent organisation’, in this case BikeNZ. MTBNZ has always been clear that the BikeNZ structure can deliver very well in some areas, but where sport (mountain bike) specific knowledge is required the knowledge base, passion and motivation required to effectively make a difference with those sport specific items sits with a MTB Club elected national organisation – MTBNZ.

Unfortunately and especially in the last three years, there can be no doubt that MTBNZ and the sport of mountain biking in general has been marginalised via the BikeNZ relationship. MTBNZ’s stance has increasingly been viewed as a threat rather than as a positive and valued delivery structure. For what is surely the largest recreational cycling sport in New Zealand, and also the fastest growing, the reasons behind this really need to be fleshed out.

BikeNZ’s Plan covers off some really good stuff – there is no doubt that BikeNZ will be able to deliver some items in that plan well. However, part of that Plan which is not clearly articulated, involves disbanding its Member Organisations (BMXNZ, NZ Schools Cycling Assoc, Road and Track, MTBNZ), assuming all their functional responsibilities including financial packages, and setting these organisations up as Advisory Panels. As Advisory Panels, these organisations will have extremely limited, if any, control over anything sport specific. Relative to MTBNZ, and to mountain biking in NZ in general, this should be starting to set the alarm bells off for you.

Consider the many strong, vibrant MTB Clubs around the country – why are they strong and so successful? It is because MTB Clubs understand the importance of quality trail resources and providing riding opportunities for people who choose to ride bikes off-road. The success of providing those resources often can be easily traced back to the strength and confidence of local relationships and the passion and local knowledge of the people on the ground at that grass roots level. MTB Clubs don’t need a lot of help with this side of things, although undoubtedly the great work MTBNZ has done in the background at a high level of advocacy over many years has made and continues to make the provision of these resources a lot easier to realise.

BikeNZ’s membership plan will remove MTBNZ from any effective link with MTB Clubs. The proposed BikeNZ membership model requires direct membership with BikeNZ – a capturing of numbers (and fees) that supposedly will return higher levels of investment into BikeNZ from SPARC and other funders. However, no country that has rolled out this type of centralised membership model has balanced it out with greater grass roots support – it simply does not happen and the link with grass roots and recreational mountain bikers is not only lost from a national level, it is increasingly marginalised. Increased investment invariably ends up supporting an overhead-heavy organisation. A great example is the British Cycling model – very similar to that proposed by BikeNZ. Despite massive investment the grass roots/recreational focus on cycling in Britain is sadly lacking.

I have always advocated for and argued for BikeNZ to support MTBNZ in setting up in a more sustainable way. Having part time staff operating under the MTBNZ banner delivering through our affiliated MTB Club network which has an already established link through to recreational off-road cyclists seems like such a simple concept, but just does not fit with the BikeNZ centralised, business oriented model. Surely the MTB sport experts, voted onto the MTBNZ Executive by NZ’s MTB Clubs are ideally placed to be able to do this? I encourage you to go along to BikeNZ’s Roadshow but look beyond the shiny bells and whistles, and I also encourage you to ask the hard questions around how BikeNZ intends to service the real needs of mountain bikers. Why BikeNZ is basing its Bike Plan in many cases on overseas models that have clearly failed with grass roots delivery and support should also be explored.

I would also encourage you to consider the current structure of MTBNZ. Depowering this organisation to an Advisory Panel is a structural change that shouldn’t be allowed to happen – full and detailed consultation with you, the MTB Club Affiliates on any structural change is a must. I continue to advocate for a sustainable MTBNZ as an alternate and viable structure to that proposed in the BikeNZ Plan, one which stands on its own, albeit with a solid partnership agreement with BikeNZ – defining those items BikeNZ can and will deliver. But leaving the sport specific items vested with MTBNZ, especially in the areas of:
• land access, trail resources and the ongoing rollout of quality riding opportunities for recreational mountain bikers
• continuing to own and manage its own events (NZ MTB Cup, National and Oceania Championships)

MTBNZ is elected under the terms of its constitution by its Affiliate MTB Clubs, and the power and responsibility to make any change sits squarely with you all. I hope you can make some balanced decisions in the near future for the good and healthy future of our wonderful sport.”

Yours sincerely
Chris Mildon

  • Concerned

    Lest we not forget that at those 2 clubs, or at least some people very vested in those clubs seem to have a semi-personal vendetta against Mildie and MTBNZ

  • Stuart Thompson

    Coming from a completely uneducated position on this and reading between the lines, what we appear to have here is one organisation simply seeking to get bigger. It is a beauracracy and it will only seek to get bigger. That is what beauracracies do.

    The only MTB club I joined took my money but failed to actually register me. I received no benefits whatsoever.

    What I do know is that I will happily pay southstar shuttles, woodhill MTB park and skyline gondolas for the priviledge of riding on trails they have a motive to see maintained. Private enterprise – these are the people that are providing real, tangible benefits for me the regular MTB’r.

    I say mates races and user pays.

    • Aaronf

      Agree with the beauracracy. Regarding Queenstown, Skyline dont maintain all the trails. They are the ones benefitting most from the Bike park but they only agree to maintain 1 trail. Club membership does help out as far as trail access and building goes.

    • stw3r68h

      I have never riden at woodhill, but riding at rotorua i always use the shuttle, and am happy to par for it because i get a better riding experiance. I’d rather pay to ride and know the tracks are going to be mint, then them relying on club fees or funding from a higher organisation and the money not being there.

  • Choose Wisely

    The executives of the various national bodies representing the cycling community will need to consider BikeNZ’s proposal very carefully and consider how it may compromise their position when referring to objects set out in their constitutions.